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Multiple Myeloma

Learn more about types of multiple myeloma and treatment options at Baptist Cancer Center.

Multiple Myeloma Explained

Multiple myeloma is a rare form of blood cancer that affects the bone marrow, where the body makes blood cells. It develops in the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that makes the antibodies that protect your body from infection, leading to a weakened immunity system. It can also cause anemia as it can impact the development and viability of red blood cells. Detection is done through blood, urine and blood marrow tests. Imaging tests, such as X-ray, MRI or CT scan, can show irregularities in the bone, as well. Multiple myeloma can spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones and kidneys.

Multiple Myeloma Treatment Options

If multiple myeloma is detected in the absence of symptoms, treatment may not be needed right away. When symptoms do appear, treatment usually begins with medication through targeted therapy. Other treatments include immunotherapy, chemotherapy, CAR-T cell therapy and corticosteroids.

The Different Types of Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is usually categorized as smoldering or active. People with smoldering multiple myeloma show no signs or symptoms of the disease, and treatment is usually unnecessary until symptoms become apparent. Active multiple myeloma occurs when symptoms are present, and treatment is needed.

The different types of multiple myeloma are based on the protein (immunoglobulin) produced by the cancerous cells. Plasma cells, the blood-generating cells in the bone marrow, create both heavy chain and light chain proteins, both of which are needed to create healthy blood cells. The myeloma cancer cells invade the plasma cells and take over the protein generation, causing:

Heavy chain myeloma

Where multiple myeloma causes the blood-generating cells in the bone marrow to create only heavy chain proteins.

Light chain myeloma

Where only light chain proteins are created in the plasma.

Other rare forms

Solitary plasmacytoma, multiple solitary plasmacytoma and extramedullary myeloma are other more uncommon types of multiple myeloma. 

Learn the Symptoms, Stages and Causes

Recognizing the signs of multiple myeloma allows for timely intervention, potentially increasing the chances of successful treatment and improving your quality of life.

What are multiple myeloma causes and risk factors?

Risk factors for multiple myeloma include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Diagnosis of other plasma cell diseases

Common Signs and Symptoms

Patients with multiple myeloma often do not exhibit signs or symptoms of the disease (smoldering myeloma). However, when symptoms do happen (active myeloma), they often include:

  • Bone pain
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Infections
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Mental fogginess

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As a patient at Baptist Cancer Center, you will have access to a dedicated patient navigator who will act as your advocate and liaison between you and your health care teams. Our patient navigators are available at every step to schedule appointments, answer questions, explain the treatment process, and provide resources, education and support when you and your family need it.