How Multiple Myeloma Impacts the Body

Multiple myeloma affects the places where bone marrow is active in an adult. Most common sites include the bones of the spine, skull, pelvis, rib cage, and the areas around the shoulders and hips. Read more about its risk factors and how the disease impacts each of the following:

Myeloma cells in the bone marrow increase bone breakdown and prevent new bone cell production. Both increase the risk of fractures. The by-product of bone breakdown is calcium released into the blood. This is called hypercalcemia.
New red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are made in the bone marrow. Myeloma in the bone marrow disrupts the production of these new blood cells. As a result, multiple myeloma patients may develop anemia, or low red blood cell count. They may also experience low white blood cell count, or neutropenia. This can increase risk of infection. Finally, patients may have thrombocytopenia, or low platelet count. This increases a tendency for bleeding.
Kidney disease is a serious complication of myeloma that occurs in 20–25% of newly diagnosed patients. Up to 50% of patients with active myeloma may also develop kidney disease. This kidney damage is linked to the toxic effects of myeloma cell-derived monoclonal proteins, hypercalcemia, or infection.
Immune system
Myeloma suppresses the immune response as a whole. It reduces the number of normal antibodies, or immunoglobulins. In turn, all the cells that would patrol for and attack any abnormal infectious agents and/or cells are affected.

The Course of the Disease

When the disease is discovered, there is much to learn and be aware of:

It is important that multiple myeloma be diagnosed as early as possible. Early diagnosis may reduce the number of potential complications with more advanced myeloma. Myeloma can be slow-moving or more aggressive. A skilled myeloma specialist is ideal to determine the best approach in your individual situation.
Finding Help
Patients benefit by connecting with others in similar situations. It is often integral to the healing process. The IMF facilitates a network of more than 160 support groups throughout the U.S. We are there to help you find the support and care you need.
No single test tells the whole story about a patient’s status. Used together, test results give a more complete picture. When looked at over time as a trend or pattern, these results best reflect a patient's status. Some common myeloma tests are blood tests, bone imaging, and urine tests.
When multiple myeloma is diagnosed, the stage of the disease varies from patient to patient. The correlation between the amount of myeloma and the damage it has caused determines prognosis. Prognosis is expected survival. A bone marrow biopsy is essential for staging.
Treatment is recommended for active, symptomatic myeloma. Treatment is also recommended for smoldering, asymptomatic myeloma with myeloma-defining events (MDE). The most important first step in cancer treatment is deciding when and if to treat. Stem cell treatment is one of the most common courses of action in the treatment of myeloma.
Multiple myeloma has both physical and emotional impacts. Explore this section to learn how to manage the complications and side effects of the disease and its treatments.
Living Well
The work that we have done over the previous decades has improved overall survival in patients with multiple myeloma. New and improved targeted therapies are being developed every year. We can help you understand how to live with, through, and beyond myeloma.
Who Gets Multiple Myeloma
new cases are diagnosed yearly, worldwide.
Is 2X's
more likely to occur in people of African descent.
most common blood cancer in the world.
Myeloma Details
Characteristics of Multiple Myeloma Plasma Cells

Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. The malignant plasma cells, or myeloma cells, accumulate in the bone marrow.

A solitary plasmacytoma is a localized tumor composed of plasma cells. It can grow inside bone, or intramedullary. It can also grow outside bone, or extramedullary or in the soft-tissue. Multiple myeloma occurs when there are multiple plasmacytomas inside or outside bone. When patients with myeloma have disease outside the bone marrow, this is called “extramedullary disease” (EMD).

Understanding Myeloma's Language

Learn all of the terms that are frequently used when living with and being treated for multiple myeloma.

Image Left
Light Stone
In 2021,
an estimated
people were living with myeloma in the U.S.
An estimated
new myeloma cases may be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2024.
Who Is at risk?
Men are
1.5 times more likely
to develop myeloma than women.
MM is most frequently diagnosed in
year olds.
Death rates have been falling
0.8% yearly
on average from 2004-2013.
Five-year survival rates have
increased to 61.1%
from 2014-2020
Stay in Touch for the Latest Information
For late breaking news and events, subscribe to the Myeloma Minute!
How the IMF Leads the Fight Against Myeloma

Resources & Support

Multiple myeloma is a disease that can often be treated successfully, and many patients live long and productive lives after being diagnosed. We are here to arm you with as much patient information as possible so that you can seek out the very best care, while working toward better treatments and a cure.
iStopMM Team in Lab in Iceland

Learn about the largest scale population-based study of the precursor of multiple myeloma.

BSRI 2019

Dr. Sigurdur Kristinsson gives the first results of the Iceland wide iStopMM study.


The International Myeloma Foundation medical and editorial content team

Comprised of leading medical researchers, hematologists, oncologists, oncology-certified nurses, medical editors, and medical journalists, our team has extensive knowledge of the multiple myeloma treatment and care landscape. Additionally, Dr. Brian G.M. Durie reviews and approves all medical content on this website. 

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