Navigate Up
Unable to display this Web Part. To troubleshoot the problem, open this Web page in a Microsoft SharePoint Foundation-compatible HTML editor such as Microsoft SharePoint Designer. If the problem persists, contact your Web server administrator.


Correlation ID:86e43c04-8dd7-4b00-b58f-8e5a0422de85

Print This Page

Multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is cancer that starts in the plasma cells in bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue found inside most bones. It helps make blood cells.

Plasma cells help your body fight infection by producing proteins called antibodies. With multiple myeloma, plasma cells grow out of control in the bone marrow and form tumors in the areas of solid bone. The growth of these bone tumors weakens the solid bones and also makes it harder for the bone marrow to make healthy blood cells and platelets

Alternative Names

Plasma cell dyscrasia; Plasma cell myeloma; Malignant plasmacytoma; Plasmacytoma of bone; Myeloma - multiple

Causes

The exact cause of multiple myeloma is not clear. Past treatment with radiation therapy increases the risk of this type of cancer. Multiple myeloma mainly affects older adults.

Symptoms

Multiple myeloma most commonly causes a low red blood cell count (anemia ), which can lead to fatigue and shortness of breath. It can also cause low white blood cell count, which makes you more likely to get infections. Multiple myeloma can also cause low platelet count, which can lead to abnormal bleeding.

As the cancer cells grow in the bone marrow, you may have bone or back pain , most often in the ribs or back.

The cancer cells can weaken bones. You may develop broken bones (bone fractures) just from doing normal activities.

If cancer grows in the spine bones, pressure on the nerves may result. This can lead to numbness or weakness of the arms or legs.

Exams and Tests

Blood tests can help diagnose this disease. These tests include:

  • Albumin level
  • Calcium level
  • Total protein level
  • Kidney function blood tests
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Blood and urine tests to identify proteins, or antibodies (immunofixation )
  • Blood tests to quickly and accurately measure the specific level of certain proteins called immunoglobulins (nephelometry )

Bone x-rays may show fractures or hollowed out areas of bone. If your doctor suspects this type of cancer, a bone marrow biopsy will be performed.

Bone density testing may show bone loss.

Treatment

People who have mild disease or in whom the diagnosis is not certain are often not treated. Instead they are closely monitored. Some people have a slow-developing form of multiple myeloma (smoldering myeloma) that takes years to cause symptoms.

Chemotherapy is usually used to treat multiple myeloma. It is most often given to prevent complications of multiple myeloma, such as bone fractures and kidney damage.

Radiation therapy may be done to relieve bone pain or treat a bone tumor.

Two types of bone marrow transplants may be tried:

  • Autologous bone marrow or stem cell transplantation is done using the person's own stem cells.
  • Allogeneic transplant uses of someone else's stem cells. This treatment has serious risks, but may offer the chance of long-term cure.

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Survival of multiple myeloma depends on the patient's age and the stage of disease. In some cases, the disease progresses very rapidly. In other cases, it takes years to worsen.

Chemotherapy and transplants rarely lead to a permanent cure.

Possible Complications

Kidney failure is a frequent complication. Others may include:

  • Bone fractures
  • High levels of calcium in the blood, which can be very dangerous
  • Increased chances for infection, especially in the lungs
  • Weakness or loss of movement due to tumor pressing on spinal cord

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor if you have multiple myeloma and you develop an infection, or numbness, loss of movement, or loss of sensation.

References

National Cancer Institute: PDQ Plasma Cell Neoplasms (Including Multiple Myeloma) Treatment. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified: March 12, 2014. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/myeloma/healthprofessional. Accessed: March 23, 2014.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Multiple Myeloma. Version 2.2014. Available at: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/myeloma.pdf. Accessed: March 23, 2014.

Rajkumar SV, Dispenzieri A. Multiple myeloma and related disorders. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 104.

Updated: 3/23/2014

Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com