Cancer Home > Plasmacytoma

Plasmacytoma is a form of cancer that begins in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. In this type of cancer, the abnormal plasma cells collect in one location and form a single tumor, called a plasmacytoma. This tumor may form in the bone marrow or in soft tissue. Symptoms vary based on location; possible ones include pain and difficulty swallowing. Treatment options can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.

What Is Plasmacytoma?

Plasmacytoma is a type of cancer that starts in plasma cells. A plasma cell is a type of white blood cell that makes antibodies.

Understanding Normal Blood Cells

Most blood cells develop from cells in the bone marrow called stem cells. Bone marrow is the soft material in the center of most bones. Stem cells mature into different types of blood cells, which include:
  • White blood cells: These help fight infection. (There are several types of white blood cells.)
  • Red blood cells: These carry oxygen to tissues throughout the body.
  • Platelets: These cells help form blood clots that control bleeding.
Plasma cells are white blood cells that make antibodies, which are part of the immune system. Antibodies work with other parts of the immune system to help protect the body from germs and other harmful substances. Each type of plasma cell makes a different antibody.

Understanding Myeloma Cells and Plasmacytoma

Plasmacytoma, like other cancers, begins in cells. Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place. In cancer, this orderly process goes wrong -- new cells form when the body does not need them and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.
In this type of cancer, the abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) collect in one location and form a single tumor, called a plasmacytoma. This tumor may form in bone marrow or in the extramedullary (soft tissues outside of the bone marrow). Plasmacytoma of the bone often becomes multiple myeloma, meaning that it affects more than one bone. Extramedullary plasmacytomas commonly form in tissues of the throat and sinuses; these often can be cured.

(Click Multiple Myeloma for more information about this type of plasma cell cancer that may affect many bones.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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