Multiple Myeloma

Faith Bradshaw

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma is a type of cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. When plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control, they can produce a tumor called a plasmacytoma.These tumors generally develop in a bone, but they are also rarely found in other tissues. If someone has only a single plasma cell tumor, the disease is called an isolated (or solitary) plasmacytoma. If someone has more than one plasmacytoma, they have multiple myeloma.


The signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary, and early in the disease, there may be none.

When symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Bone pain (spine and chest)
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental fogginess or confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness or numbness on the legs
  • Excessive thirst


Treatments may include:

  • Chemotherapy and other drugs
  • Bisphosphonates (drugs that prevent the loss of bone mass)
  • Radiation
  • Surgery
  • Biologic Therapy (helps restore the bodies immune system)
  • Stem Cell Transplant (bone marrow is replaced by stem cells that develop into healthy bone marrow.)
  • Plasmapheresis (liquid in the blood, or plasma, is separated from the cells.)

How is it Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of multiple myeloma is determined by a number of different diagnostic tests, because myeloma is difficult to diagnose on the basis of any single laboratory test result. Accurate diagnosis generally results from a number of factors, including physical evaluation, patient history, symptoms, and diagnostic testing results. The initial evaluation to help confirm a diagnosis of myeloma includes blood and urine tests as well as a bone marrow biopsy. Other tests include X-rays. MRIs, CT scans and PET scans.


The prognosis of multiple myeloma is usually based on the existence of different signs, symptoms, and circumstances. Multiple myeloma prognosis as well as survival rates have improved due to myeloma research. The prognosis of myeloma is also dependent on the stage of the disease as determined by the results of diagnostic testing.

Survival Rate

This year, an estimated 26,850 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma. It is estimated that 11,240 deaths from this disease will occur this year.

The five-year survival rate of people with multiple myeloma is 47%. However, several factors affect an individual’s survival, such as the person’s age and overall health. For instance, survival rates are higher in younger people than in older people.

Understanding Multiple Myeloma