Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. Normal plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system. The immune system is made up of several types of cells that work together to fight infections and other diseases. Lymphocytes (lymph cells) are one of the main types of white blood cells in the immune system and include T cells and B cells. Lymphocytes are in many areas of the body, such as lymph nodes, the bone marrow, the intestines, and the bloodstream.
When B cells respond to an infection, they mature and change into plasma cells. Plasma cells make the antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) that help the body attack and kill germs. Plasma cells are found mainly in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones. In addition to plasma cells, normal bone marrow is also the home for other blood cells such as red cells, white cells, and platelets.
In general, when plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control, this is called multiple myeloma. The plasma cells make an abnormal protein (antibody) known by several different names, including monoclonal immunoglobulin, monoclonal protein (M-protein), M-spike, or paraprotein.
There are, however, other plasma cell disorders that also have abnormal plasma cells but do not meet the criteria to be called active multiple myeloma. These other plasma cell disorders include:
Monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance (MGUS)Smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM)Solitary plasmacytomaLight chain amyloidosis.
1Symptoms Of Multiple Myeloma
Anemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Anemia can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness. It is a symptom of multiple myeloma, but not all people with multiple myeloma have anemia.
If you think you may have anemia from multiple myeloma, talk to your doctor about getting a comprehensive blood workup. Your doctor will be able to determine if you do indeed have anemia by evaluating your red blood cell count (the amount of hemoglobin in each of your red blood cells).