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Monoclonal Gammopathy

Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance is a medical condition characterized by abnormal plasma cells, which may lead to cancer. In most cases, people with this condition experience no symptoms. Usually, treatment involves regular monitoring (known as watchful waiting) and follow-up visits to the doctor.

What Is Monoclonal Gammopathy?

Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS or just monoclonal gammopathy) is a condition that results in abnormal plasma cells. A plasma cell is a type of white blood cell. While monoclonal gammopathy is not cancer, it can develop into cancer.
 

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, which help fight infection (there are several types of white blood cells)
  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to tissues throughout the body
  • Platelets, which 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. Normal plasma cells help protect the body from germs and other harmful substances.
 

Understanding Myeloma Cells and Monoclonal Gammopathy

Monoclonal gammopathy begins in plasma 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. For unknown reasons, in monoclonal gammopathy, this orderly process goes wrong.
 
In monoclonal gammopathy, there are abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow but there is no cancer. The abnormal plasma cells produce M protein that may be found during a routine blood or urine test. In most people, the amount of M protein stays the same and there are no symptoms or problems. In some people, monoclonal gammopathy may later become a more serious condition, such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma.

(Click Multiple Myeloma for more information about this type of plasma cell cancer.)
 
 
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