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Multiple myeloma

  • Definition

    Multiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow.

    Alternative Names

    Plasma cell dyscrasia; Plasma cell myeloma; Malignant plasmacytoma; Plasmacytoma of bone; Myeloma - multiple

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Plasma cells help the body's immune system fight disease by producing proteins called antibodies. In multiple myeloma, plasma cells grow out of control in the bone marrow and form tumors in the areas of solid bone.

    The growth of these bone tumors makes it harder for the bone marrow to make red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This causes anemia, which makes a person more likely to get infections and have abnormal bleeding.

    As the cancer cells grow in the bone marrow, they can cause pain and destruction of the bones. If the bones in the spine are affected, it can put pressure on the nerves, resulting in numbness or paralysis.

    Multiple myeloma mainly affects older adults. A history of radiation therapy raises your risk for this type of cancer.