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What is myeloma?

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Myeloma types

There are different types of myeloma. Some are very rare, but they are all treated in the same way.

IgG and IgA myeloma

A large majority of people with myeloma will have a type of disease called IgG or IgA myeloma. This means the abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) are making too many abnormal IgG or IgA antibodies. The myeloma cells also overwhelm the normal plasma cells, so the level of normal antibodies being produced can also be low.

IgG is the most common type of myeloma. Over half (50%) of cases are this type. Around one in five people with myeloma (20%) will have IgA type.

Free light chain myeloma (formerly known as Bence Jones myeloma)

One in five people with myeloma (20%) have this type. This is where the body produces antibodies that are incomplete, so they may not have a Y-shaped heavy chain, only the light chain (either kappa or lambda). These antibodies are referred to as 'free light chains' because they are not attached to the heavy chains.

A special test known as the serum free light chain assay is done to detect these abnormal light chains. Or, light chains can be measured in the urine – where they’re known as 'Bence Jones protein'.

People with this type of myeloma should receive guidance from their healthcare team about taking extra care of their kidneys, because free light chains can damage them.

Non-secretory myeloma and oligosecretory myeloma

Around three in a hundred people (3%) with symptomatic myeloma get non-secretory myeloma. This is where the abnormal plasma cells do not produce any paraprotein at all. Oligosecretory myeloma is where the plasma cells only produce very small amounts of paraprotein.

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