Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in plasma cells and often affects many bones. Although it affects the bones, it is not bone cancer. Some people with this condition may not experience any symptoms; however, if symptoms are present, they may include bone pain, bones that break easily, and fever for no known reason. In general, treatment options can include such things as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and stem cell or bone marrow transplants.
Multiple myeloma is cancer that begins in plasma cells (a type of white blood cell). Each year, about 15,000 Americans learn that they have multiple myeloma.
In order to better understand multiple myeloma, it may be helpful to know how normal blood cells function. 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.