Multiple Myeloma

General Information

Multiple myeloma is a tumor involving blood cells called plasma cells. Plasma cell tumors often grow in the bone marrow cavities. The growth of these tumors can cause a replacement of other cells in the bone marrow, with a resultant decrease in the production of other blood cells. Normally plasma cells produce a protein, a type of antibody, that circulates in the blood. The tumor produces this protein in amounts that can thicken the blood and slow the circulation, which can affect kidney function.

Multiple myeloma usually occurs after age 50 and increases in occurrence with age. Because the tumor grows within bone marrow cavities, bone pain often occurs. The tumor causes a decrease in the production of blood cells and anemia occurs. Resistance to infection may be impaired and infections, particularly pneumonia, are frequent.

Important Points in Treatment
Treatment of multiple myeloma is with chemotherapy. Sometimes radiation therapy is used to shrink tumor masses that are causing a problem because of pressure. Drinking extra fluids may help preserve kidney function. Occasionally, removal of serum can reduce the amount of abnormal protein found in the circulation.