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 how the disease impacts each of the following:

The presence of myeloma cells in the bone marrow increases bone breakdown and prevents the production of new bone cells, increasing the risk of fractures. The by-product of bone breakdown is calcium that is released into the blood (or, hypercalcemia).
New red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are made in the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma in the bone marrow disrupts the production of these new blood cells. As a result, myeloma patients may develop anemia (low red blood cell count) with susceptibility to infection, low white blood cell count (neutropenia), and/or low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) with an increased bleeding tendency.
Kidney disease is a serious complication of myeloma that occurs in 20–25% of newly diagnosed patients and up to 50% of patients with active myeloma during the course of their disease. The 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, reducing the number of normal antibodies (immunoglobulins) and affecting all the cells that would patrol for and attack any abnormal infectious agents and/or cells.

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 to 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
Connecting with others facing a similar situation is integral to the healing process. The IMF facilitates a network of more than 150 support groups throughout the U.S., so you will be able to 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, and results best reflect a patient's status when looked at over time as a trend or pattern.
When multiple myeloma is diagnosed, the stage of the disease varies from patient to patient. Staging can be done by the correlation between the amount of myeloma and the damage it has caused, or according to prognosis, or expected survival.
Treatment is recommended for active, symptomatic myeloma. Treatment is also recommended for smoldering, asymptomatic myeloma with myeloma-defining events (MDE). Whether or not treatment is necessary is the most important initial decision.
Multiple myeloma has both physical and emotional impacts, but you have options for managing the complications and side effects from ongoing treatment of the disease.
Living Well
The work that we have done over the previous decades has improved overall survival in patients with multiple myeloma. 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.

Plasmacytomas are localized tumors composed of plasma cells, which can grow inside bone (intramedullary) or outside bone (extramedullary or soft-tissue). When there are multiple plasmacytomas inside or outside bone, this condition is also called multiple myeloma. 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 2018,
an estimated
people were living with myeloma in the U.S.
An estimated
new myeloma cases may be diagnosed in 2019.
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
each year since 1975 when data was first made available.
Stay in Touch for the Latest Information
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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

An update on Black Swan Research Initiative for 2019.

The International Myeloma Foundation medical and editorial content team

Comprised of leading medical researchers, hematologist, 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.

Last Medical Review: August 1, 2019

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