About Multiple Myeloma
In multiple myeloma, abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) build up in the bone marrow and form tumors in many bones of the body. These tumors may keep the bone marrow from making enough healthy blood cells. Normally, the bone marrow makes stem cells (immature cells) that become three types of mature blood cells:
- Red blood cells that carry oxygen and other substances to all tissues of the body.
- White blood cells that fight infection and disease.
- Platelets that form blood clots to help prevent bleeding.
As the number of myeloma cells increases, fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are made. The myeloma cells also damage and weaken the bone.
Sometimes multiple myeloma does not cause any signs or symptoms. This is called smoldering multiple myeloma. It may be found when a blood or urine test is done for another condition. Signs and symptoms may be caused by multiple myeloma or other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Bone pain, especially in the back or ribs.
- Bones that break easily.
- Fever for no known reason or frequent infections.
- Easy bruising or bleeding.
- Trouble breathing.
- Weakness of the arms or legs.
- Feeling very tired.
Plasma cell neoplasms are most common in people who are middle aged or older. For multiple myeloma and plasmacytoma, other risk factors include the following:
- Being black.
- Being male.
- Having a personal history of MGUS or plasmacytoma.
- Being exposed to radiation or certain chemicals.