What is Myeloma?

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Red blood cells 3d illustration

Myeloma is one of the three most common types of blood cancer, along with leukemia and lymphoma. Myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow, and is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells that help blood clot.

When myeloma is found in the marrow of multiple bones in your body, it is called multiple myeloma. More than 90 percent of myeloma patients are diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Like some other forms of blood cancer, doctors divide myeloma into two groups that categorize how quickly or slowly the disease is progressing: asymptomatic (slow-progressing) and symptomatic (quicker to progress with more symptoms).

How does myeloma develop?

Myeloma develops when a plasma cell is changed, or mutated. B lymphocytes (B cells) are a type of white blood cell that are present in the bone marrow. Plasma cells develop from these B cells and are an important part of your immune system. They make proteins called antibodies, which help fight infection.

When the mutated plasma cell (myeloma cell) multiplies, these cells will continue to grow in the bone marrow if the disease is left untreated. The myeloma cells crowd out both the healthy plasma cells and the normal stem cells inside the bone marrow that form the white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Signs and symptoms

In the beginning stages of myeloma, some patients will not experience signs or symptoms of disease. In about 20 percent of myeloma patients, the cancer is found before symptoms appear as a result of detection during routine blood tests or an X-ray. Some symptoms of myeloma include:

  • Bone pain and/or skeletal fractures
  • Anemia (fatigue and weakness caused by low red blood cell counts)
  • Frequent infections due to a weakened immune system

To learn more about this specific type of blood cancer, including diagnosis, treatment and side effects information, visit the Sarah Cannon patient education portal here.

3 Responses to “What is Myeloma?”

  1. LYNNE HUGULEY

    I have not thought to ask dr but is it okay to have intercourse with someone taking chemo?

    Reply
    • LYNNE HUGULEY

      we are both 65 and ive had hysterectomy and he has had prostrate cancer so we are infertile.

      Reply
    • SarahCannon

      Hi Lynne – Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story with us. We recommend talking to your physician about your specific situation, who will be more familiar with the details of your husband’s treatment. If you are looking for additional information on chemotherapy and other common questions, you can visit the common questions tab on the blog and the Sarah Cannon website at sarahcannon.com.

      Reply

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