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Myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection. The multiplication of myeloma cells also interferes with the normal production and function of red and white blood cells. An abnormally high amount of these dysfunctional antibodies in the bloodstream can cause kidney damage. Additionally, the myeloma cells commonly produce substances that cause bone destruction, leading to bone pain and/or fractures.

Myeloma cells are produced in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside your bones. Sometimes myeloma cells will travel through your blood stream and collect in other bones in your body. Because myeloma frequently occurs at many sites in the bone marrow, it is often referred to as multiple myeloma.

Am I at Risk?

Signs and symptoms of myeloma include the following:

  • Hypercalcemia (excessive calcium in the blood)
  • Anemia (shortage or reduced function of red blood cells)
  • Renal damage (kidney failure)
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Osteoporosis, bone pain, bone swelling, or fracture
  • High protein levels in the blood and/or urine
  • Weight loss

Myeloma occurs more frequently in the following populations:

  • Males
  • Over the age of 50
  • Individuals with Gaucher’s disease
  • First degree relatives of patients with myeloma
  • African-Americans
  • Obese
  • Individuals exposed to radiation
  • Work in petroleum-related industries