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Multiple myeloma

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From MayoClinic.com

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in your bone marrow - the soft, blood-producing tissue that fills in the center of most of your bones. The cause of this disease isn't known.

Plasma cells usually make up less than 5 percent of the cells in your bone marrow. But if you have multiple myeloma, a group of abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) multiplies to make up more than 10 percent of the cells in your bone marrow. The result can be erosion of your bones. The disease also interferes with the function of your bone marrow and immune system, which can lead to anemia and infection. More infections tend to occur later in the disease. Multiple myeloma may also cause problems with your kidneys.

The disease is called multiple myeloma because abnormal myeloma cells can occur in multiple bone marrow sites in your body.

If you have the disease but you're not experiencing symptoms, you may just need your doctor to monitor your condition. A variety of treatments are available if you're experiencing symptoms.

Signs and symptoms 

Although multiple myeloma may not cause symptoms early in the disease, it's likely that you'll experience symptoms as the disease progresses.

Signs and symptoms of the disease can vary from person to person. One sign is the presence of abnormal proteins — which can be produced by myeloma cells — in your blood or urine. These proteins — which are antibodies or parts of antibodies — are called monoclonal or M proteins.

Normally, your body produces a number of types of plasma cells. These cells provide a variety of antibodies that function as part of the body's immune system. They're considered polyclonal because they represent many types of plasma cells. However, if one of these cells escapes normal regulation and grows independently of the others, this is called a monoclonal growth of plasma cells. Such monoclonal plasma cells produce a monoclonal protein.

Often discovered during a routine exam, these proteins may indicate multiple myeloma, but also can indicate other conditions.

Another potential sign of multiple myeloma is a high level of calcium in your blood This can occur when calcium from affected bones dissolves into your blood. As a result, you may experience signs and symptoms such as:

  • Excessive thirst and urination

  • Sleepiness

  • Constipation

  • Nausea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Mental confusion

Anemia can occur as myeloma cells replace oxygen-carrying red blood cells in your bone marrow, which may lead to another common symptom — fatigue.

Other signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma may include:

  • Bone pain, particularly in your back or ribs

  • Unexplained bone fractures

  • Repeated infections — such as pneumonia, bladder or kidney infection or sinusitis

  • Weight loss

  • Weakness or numbness in your legs



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