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Myeloma

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

Newton, living with myeloma, working on his car

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.

Just diagnosed with myeloma?

For support around a blood cancer diagnosis, go to our just diagnosed section.

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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 may have chemotherapy alongside steroids and biological therapies. 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.

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

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