Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.

Risks and causes of myeloma

The cause or causes of myeloma are unknown. However, there are a number of associated risk factors. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system - due to HIV or AIDS or taking immunosuppressants after an organ transplant
  • Autoimmune conditions such as pernicious anaemia and systemic lupus erythematosis
  • Having the pre-existing condition monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
  • Family history of MGUS or myeloma

Symptoms of myeloma

  • Repeated infections
  • Tiredness (caused by anaemia)
  • Breathlessness
  • Bone pain
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Unusual bleeding and bruising
  • Loss of appetite
  • Raised calcium levels in the blood (feeling thirsty, nausea, passing urine more frequently, confusion and drowsiness)

How is myeloma diagnosed?

  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • CT scan
  • PET-CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • X-ray
  • Bone marrow biopsy: a haematologist will take a small sample of bone marrow to examine under a microscope

Myeloma treatment

Patients with myeloma are treated by a team of different specialists called a multidisciplinary team. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. Treatment usually involves:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Steroids