About Myeloma

Myeloma, the second most common type of blood cancer, affects the plasma cells. Normally, plasma cells produce antibodies that defend the body against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. In the case of myeloma, these cells become abnormal and malignant, dividing uncontrollably and crowding out other types of blood cells, compromising the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs, fight off infections and clot properly.

In the case of multiple myeloma, which makes up over 90 percent of myeloma diagnoses, the cancerous plasma cells will also form multiple tumors (called plasmacytomas) in bones and soft tissues. This can raise the risk of bone fractures, elevate blood-calcium levels (hypercalcemia) and cause neurological and kidney problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Myeloma
 
Myeloma symptoms may be caused by the cancer itself, or by anemia or hypercalcemia, both of which are linked to the disease. These include:
 
  • Abnormal bowel movement patterns
  • Bone fractures
  • Bone pain, particularly in the back or ribs
  • Confusion or trouble thinking
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Frequent infections
  • Frequent thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle weakness, particularly in arms or legs
  • Nausea
  • Purple spots on the skin
  • Restlessness
  • Swelling caused by fluid accumulation
  • Trouble breathing
 
If your or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, please contact your doctor for further evaluation, which may include a biopsy for a myeloma diagnosis.
 
Myeloma Risk Factors
 
Risk factors associated with myeloma include the following:
 
  • Age: Myeloma is more common in people who are middle-aged or older.
  • African-American heritage
  • Family history of myeloma: People who have a sibling or parent diagnosed with myeloma are four times more likely to develop the cancer themselves.
  • Gender: Men are likely to develop myeloma
  • Radiation exposure
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases myeloma risk
  • Other plasma cells diseases: People diagnosed with other plasma cell diseases, such as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia or solitary plasmacytoma, are at greater risk of developing myeloma
 
Note that having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will develop myeloma. Most people who have risk factors never develop cancer. Likewise, some people who develop myeloma may not have any risk factors present.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have myeloma, please contact your doctor for a medical examination.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with myeloma or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient or contact us at 800-826-HOPE.

Sources: American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute