About Multiple Myeloma and Related Plasma Cell Disorders

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Plasma cell neoplasms are diseases where the body makes too many plasma cells. These diseases include monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), plasmacytoma, and multiple myeloma.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of multiple myeloma:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain in the bones or bones that break easily
  • Fever or frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Weakness or tiredness

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of Multiple Myeloma Cells

anatomical drawing of myeloma cells

Multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma cells are abnormal plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) that build up in the bone marrow and form tumors in many bones of the body. Normal plasma cells make antibodies to help the body fight infection and disease. As the number of multiple myeloma cells increases, more antibodies are made. This can cause the blood to thicken and keep the bone marrow from making enough healthy blood cells. Multiple myeloma cells also damage and weaken the bone.

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the recommendations of the care team and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment: 

  • Watchful waiting
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Biologic therapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Hematologic Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for people with all types of blood cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments and cancer screenings.

Our Experts

At Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), a team of cancer experts work together to care for you. Our specialists review each patient's case, coordinate treatment, and plan follow-up care:

  • Medical, radiation, and surgery doctors
  • Diagnostic specialists such as radiologists and pathologists
  • Geneticists
  • Nurses, dietitians, and social workers

Our care teams also include nurses, advanced care nurses, and physician assistants. These health care professionals are always available to answer your questions and help with your concerns. Everyone on your care team communicates with each other to plan and give treatment.

Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

These are risk factors for plasma cell neoplasms, including multiple myeloma:

  • Being male
  • Being black
  • Being middle-aged or older
  • Having a history of plasma cell neoplasms
  • Being exposed to radiation or certain chemicals

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about family history and genetic counseling.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma

Doctors use these tests to diagnose Multiple Myeloma:

  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Laboratory tests: By testing body tissues, blood, urine or other substances in the body, your health care team can check to see how the organs are functioning. They also look for abnormal amounts of blood cells.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: The health care provider removes a small sample of bone marrow to look for abnormal cells under a microscope.
  • Imaging tests: Using dyes, x-rays, magnets, radio waves and/or computer technology, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs.

Stages of Multiple Myeloma

These are three stages used for multiple myeloma as defined by the revised international staging system (R-ISS):

  • Stage I: Beta-2-microglobulin level is less than 3.5 mg/L and albumin is 3.5 g/dL or higher.
  • Stage II: Not fitting criteria for either stage I or stage III.
  • Stage III: Beta-2-microglobulin level is 5.5 mg/L or higher, and the patient has either high levels of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) or certain changes in the chromosomes.

Learn more about the stages of plasma cell neoplasms from the National Cancer Institute.