March is Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month.

What Is Multiple Myeloma? MM is a cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells multiply myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells. It is synonymous with “myeloma” and “plasma cell myeloma.” Plasma cells make antibodies against infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria. A cancerous or malignant plasma cell is called a myeloma cell. Myeloma is called “multiple” because there are frequently multiple patches or areas in the bone marrow where it grows.


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:

Bones. 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).

Blood. 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.

Kidneys. 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.

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