Multiple Myeloma (MM) is a malignant cancer that starts in plasma cells (a type of white blood cell which develops from B Lymphocytes). Plasma cells are made in the bone marrow and their normal function is to produce antibodies that help fight infection.
In myeloma, abnormal plasma cells grow continuously to form a mass, or tumor, in the marrow. These cells in turn produce abnormal antibodies that do not work properly. As these myeloma cells grow unchecked, they crowd out developing normal red, white, and platelet blood cells. Fewer red blood cells cause anemia, which leads to fatigue and shortness of breath with exercise. Fewer white blood cells cause neutropenia, which makes it harder for you to fight infection. Fewer platelets affect your ability to stop bleeding if an injury occurs (evidenced by increased bruising and nose bleeds). Myeloma cells may also attack your bones. They make substances that can cause bones to dissolve, creating pain and making bones fracture easily. In some cases, myeloma also interferes with kidney and nerve function.
Myeloma is a highly individualized disease. While there are similarities between patients, each case has its own distinct characteristics. Detailed information regarding your diagnosis of myeloma can be obtained from your physician. They will discuss with you the specific issues surrounding your diagnosis and consequent therapy. The goal of existing treatment is to slow the progress of the disease and reduce symptoms. When deciding on an appropriate treatment, your doctor will consider your age, overall health, symptoms, stage and type of myeloma.
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