Multiple myeloma is a cancer of your plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in your bone marrow. Plasma cells normally make proteins called antibodies to help you fight infections. In multiple myeloma, a group of plasma cells (myeloma cells) becomes cancerous and multiplies, raising the number of plasma cells to a higher than normal level.
It is estimated that in the US over 22 thousand people will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma and over half of them will die from the disease in 2013.
No one knows the exact causes of multiple myeloma, but it is more common in older people and African Americans. It can also run in families. Common symptoms may include:
Bone pain, often in the back or ribs
Weakness or fatigue
Frequent infections and fevers
Feeling very thirsty
While there's no cure for multiple myeloma, with good treatment results patients can usually return to near-normal activity. There are several treatment options, including stem cell transplantation. This treatment involves using high-dose chemotherapy â?? usually high doses of melphalan â?? along with transfusion of previously collected immature blood cells (stem cells) to replace diseased or damaged marrow. The stem cells can come from the patient or from a donor, and they may be from either blood or bone marrow.