What is Multiple Myeloma

What is Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that affects a type of white blood cell called the plasma cell. Some of the more common symptoms of multiple myeloma include bone pain and symptoms due to anemia, such as feeling easily fatigued.

Over time, myeloma cells collect in the bones and bone marrow, which may eventually lead to the damage of some of the solid parts of the bone, causing erosive areas in the bones. Because myeloma cells travel through the bloodstream, they have the potential to affect many bones in the body, frequently involving the vertebral column and possibly resulting in compression fractures, lytic bone lesions, and related pain. This also interferes with normal blood production by bone marrow, which causes low blood counts leading to such conditions as anemia, infection, and bleeding

No one knows the exact causes of multiple myeloma. Doctors seldom know why one person
develops this disease and another doesn’t. However, we do know that multiple myeloma isn’t contagious. You cannot catch it from another person.

Research has shown that certain risk factors increase the chance that a person will develop this disease. Studies have found the following risk factors for multiple myeloma:

  • Age over 65: Growing older increases the chance of developing multiple myeloma. Most people with myeloma are diagnosed after age 65. This disease is rare in people younger than 35. (guess I’m somewhere in the middle I was 36 when I was diagnosed)
  • Race: The risk of multiple myeloma is highest among African Americans and lowest among Asian Americans. The reason for the difference between racial groups is not known. (Yep, I’m African American)
  • Being a man: In 2013, about 12,000 men and 10,000 women will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the United States. It is not known why more men are diagnosed with the disease. (girl parts present and accounted for)
  • Personal history of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS): MGUS is a benign condition in which abnormal plasma cells make M proteins. Usually, there are no symptoms, and the abnormal level of M protein is found with a blood test. Sometimes, people with MGUS develop certain cancers, such as multiple myeloma. There is no treatment, but people with MGUS get regular lab tests (every 1 or 2 years) to check for a further increase in the level of M protein. They also get regular exams to check for the development of symptoms. (I went right from MGUS to MM)
  • Family history of multiple myeloma: Studies have found that a person’s risk of multiple myeloma may be higher if a close relative had the disease. (Nope)

Resources

American Cancer Society

CancerCare, Inc.

International Myeloma Foundation

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

National Cancer Institute

Myeloma Beacon: MM news and information

The National Marrow Donor Program Registry

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