What can you tell me about multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood that specifically affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight off disease.

If a plasma cell becomes abnormal and begins to replicate, it becomes a myeloma cell. When these myeloma cells build up in the bone marrow they cause tumors and damage to the bones. When multiple bones are damaged the disease it is called multiple myeloma.

Myeloma cells produce proteins that can collect in the blood, urine and organs and cause additional damage. Many times there are no symptoms in the early stage of the disease and some symptoms may seem to be the result of another illness.

There is no cure for multiple myeloma but the disease can be managed for many years. For patients who are not experiencing symptoms doctors will most likely prescribe active surveillance or appointments and tests at certain intervals to check for disease progression.

For those who are experiencing symptoms, drug therapies, such as targeted treatments or chemotherapy, are most common. Stem cell transplants are also an option for some patients.

Surgery and radiation are only used in very specific situations. For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

Multiple Myeloma/Other Plasma Cell Neoplasms – National Cancer Institute


Multiple Myeloma – American Society for Clinical Oncology


This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.