Multiple Myeloma (Kahler Disease, Myelomatosis and Plasma Cell Myeloma)
In the United States, the lifetime risk of developing the disease is 1 in 159 (0.63 percent).
Myeloma begins in plasma cells, which are the white blood cells that make the antibodies (proteins) that help protect the body from germs and other harmful substances.
When plasma cells begin developing abnormally they are called myeloma cells. These cells overgrow and don't die off like normal cells.
This collection of abnormal cells often forms a mass or tumor in the bone marrow, the sponge-like tissue in the center of the bone that produces white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
Multiple myeloma occurs when myeloma cells collect in the bone marrow of several bones. These growths may damage the solid part of the bone.
Because myeloma cells make antibodies called proteins, too many abnormal cells may also lead to the production of excessive amounts of proteins.
When these proteins collect in the blood, urine and organs, they can damage parts of the body, such as the kidneys.
Common symptoms of multiple myeloma include:
- Bone pain, usually in the back and ribs
- Frequent urination
- Frequent infections and fevers
- Weight loss
- Broken bones, usually in the spine
- Feeling weak and very tired
- Feeling very thirsty
- Nausea or constipation
Age is the most significant risk factor for developing myeloma; those aged 67 years or older are at greatest risk.