About Multiple Myeloma

Below you will find a brief overview of multiple myeloma, as well as its symptoms and risk factors for the disease.

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What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in bone marrow. Plasma cells normally make proteins called antibodies to help you fight infections.

In multiple myeloma, a group of plasma cells becomes cancerous and multiplies, raising the number of malignant plasma cells to a higher than normal level. Since these cells normally make proteins (antibodies), the level of abnormal proteins in the blood also may go up.

Health problems caused by multiple myeloma can affect the bones, immune system, kidneys, and red blood cell count.

What are the signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma?

Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary from person to person. The disease causes 4 common problems often referred to as the acronym CRAB (high calcium levels, renal failure, anemia, and bone damage).

  • A high level of calcium in the blood. This can occur when calcium from affected bones appears in the blood. High calcium levels can cause loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, thirst, frequent urination, constipation, tiredness, weakness, dehydration, and altered mental status
  • Renal (kidney) failure. High levels of creatinine in your blood indicate that your kidneys are not functioning adequately or are failing
  • Anemia/Fatigue. Lowered red cells, or anemia, may make you feel tired or weak
  • Bone damage and fractures. You may experience general aches or pains in muscles, joints, bones, or arms and legs

Another common symptom of multiple myeloma is repeated infections, which may be associated with fever.

Who is at risk for multiple myeloma?

While the cause of multiple myeloma is unknown, there are some factors that may increase the risk of multiple myeloma.

These include:

  • Age. The median age for the onset of the disease is 65 years
  • Gender. Men are more likely to develop the disease than women
  • Race. Blacks are nearly twice as likely as whites to develop multiple myeloma
  • Environmental factors. People who are exposed to radiation and chemicals may have an increased risk of multiple myeloma

Source: Williams Hematology and Harrison's Online

Talk to your doctor for more information about multiple myeloma.

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