What is Mulitple Myloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that develops when a type of white blood cell, a plasma cell, multiplies abnormally.

Over the course of months or years, myeloma cells fill the bone marrow space and interfere with the normal production of other blood cells. When the myeloma cells build up, they leave less room for healthy blood cells.

Multiple myeloma cells can eat away at areas of bone, making them weak. In fact, many people first realize they have multiple myeloma when they break a bone from minimal physical movement such as bumping into something or picking up something that would normally feel light.

The diseased plasma cells also produce an abnormal antibodies that flow into the blood and urine. In the blood, these proteins are called M proteins (monoclonal proteins). These proteins can clog the kidneys, eventually causing kidney failure.

About 24,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with multiple myeloma every year. It is most often diagnosed in patients who are 65 to 70 years old and is twice as common in African Americans as Caucasians.

Multiple Myeloma Symptoms

Patients with multiple myeloma often do not have symptoms early on in the disease, which can make diagnosing it difficult at first.

Later warning signs and symptoms can include:*

  • Bone pain, especially in the back or ribs
  • Frequent infections
  • Feeling very tired
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Feeling very tired
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion or trouble thinking

Having symptoms does not necessarily mean you have multiple myeloma. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms are severe or have continued longer than a few weeks.

*Source: National Cancer Institute