Myeloma

Learn the types, risk factors, and treatments for this cancer of the plasma cells.

Myeloma begins in the bone marrow and is a cancer of the plasma cells -- white blood cells that produce infection-fighting antibodies. Because the plasma cells are compromised, myeloma patients have weakened immune systems and are susceptible to infection.

If you are diagnosed with myeloma, our hematologic-oncology team will explain your type of the disease and walk you through the treatment options.

Types of myeloma

Myeloma is classified by how rapidly or slowly the disease progresses:

  • Asymptomatic: Also known as smoldering myeloma, this type of the disease moves slowly and often produces no symptoms.
  • Symptomatic: This type of myeloma progresses quickly and can cause anemia, kidney damage, and bone disease.

Myeloma can take several forms, including:

  • Multiple myeloma: More than 90 percent of people with myeloma have this type. Multiple myeloma affects many areas of the body.
  • Plasmacytoma: In this type, myeloma cells collect and form tumors in only one site of the body.
  • Localized myeloma: This type is found in one area of the body with exposure to neighboring sites.
  • Extramedullary myeloma: This type of the disease involves tissue other than the bone marrow, such as the skin, muscles, or lungs.

Symptoms of myeloma

Myeloma symptoms depend on the type of myeloma. Some signs of the disease can include:

  • Anemia (a shortage of red blood cells, also known as low iron)
  • High protein levels in the blood and/or urine
  • Hypercalcemia (excessive calcium in the blood)
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Unexplained weight loss

Risk factors for myeloma

Myeloma can strike anyone, but it occurs more frequently in some populations. You may be at increased risk for myeloma if you are:

  • African-American
  • Male
  • Obese
  • Older than 50
  • Exposed to radiation
  • Work in petroleum-related industries

How we treat myeloma

Each type of myeloma has different treatment options. The best treatment for you will depend on the type of myeloma you have, the severity, your medical history, and your preferences.

Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:

We participate in a number of clinical trials to test for new myeloma treatments. Talk with your doctor about whether you may qualify for a clinical trial.

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