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Myeloma

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells called plasma cells.

What is myeloma?

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells called plasma cells. When you have myeloma, your body finds it hard to fight off infections.

Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies, which fight infections in your body. Myeloma causes your plasma cells to produce abnormal antibodies which can't fight infection.

On top of this, too many abnormal plasma cells are produced in your bone marrow. This means there isn’t enough room for normal red and white blood cells, which both play an important role in keeping you well.

Myeloma is often referred to as multiple myeloma because the bone marrow is usually affected in a number of places around your body. There are different types of myeloma. Some are very rare, but they are all treated in the same way.

Read more about myeloma and your immune system.

Over 5,000 people are diagnosed each year in the UK.

We don’t know exactly what causes myeloma, but there are some things that may increase your risk, including:

  • age
  • sex
  • family history
  • ethnicity
  • whether you have MGUS

People with myeloma may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • nausea (feeling sick).
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness).
  • breathlessness.
  • bone pain.

If your doctor suspects you have myeloma, they'll run a series of tests to help them diagnose you.

If you've just been told you have myeloma

Order our free booklet 'Your blood cancer diagnosis - what happens now?'. It tells you the key things to know about blood cancer, including tips from other people who've been diagnosed.

Myeloma treatment

Depending on your symptoms and stage of your condition, you may not need treatment.

You may be put on ‘watch and wait’ – where you are carefully monitored by your healthcare team.

If you need treatment, you’ll have drugs such as chemotherapy, steroids or targeted therapies. You might have one or more drugs in combination. Some people may have a stem cell transplant. You may experience side effects of myeloma treatment.

After you’ve been diagnosed with myeloma, you may want to know more about your prognosis − what's likely to happen in the future.

Myeloma is not usually considered a curable disease, but it is very treatable. Myeloma is a disease that shifts between periods of remission (when cancer cells are no longer detected or are at a low level) and relapse (when cancer cells have returned or increased).

For most people, myeloma responds well to initial treatment but unfortunately it almost always comes back. When this happens, there are other treatment options available.

Clinical trials are how we find new treatments and improve current ones. We can help you find out about clinical trials for myeloma. Even if you just want to know a bit more about myeloma research, try our Clinical Trials Support Service.

Our research in myeloma has helped pioneer new treatments and improve existing ones. Read about our research impact in myeloma.

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