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Myeloma & Multiple Myeloma

Definition

Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells (a type of white blood cells that secrete antibodies) which can be detected in the blood and/or urine. The median age of diagnosis is 65 years.

Quick Facts

Each year in the United States, about 11,200 men and 8,700 women are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, with a prevalence in the United States of 63,000 cases. Myeloma begins when a plasma cell becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell divides to make copies of itself. The new cells divide again and again, making more and more abnormal cells. These abnormal plasma cells are called myeloma cells. In time, myeloma cells collect in the bone marrow. They may damage the solid part of the bone. When myeloma cells collect in several of your bones, the disease is called "multiple myeloma."

Specialized Physicians:
Atrayee Basu Mallick, MD
Emmanuel Besa, MD *
Avnish Bhatia, MD
Christina Brus, MD
Andrew E. Chapman, DO, FACP
Ubaldo Martinez-Outschoorn, MD *
Michael Ramirez, MD
Lewis J. Rose, MD, FACP
John L. Wagner, MD *
Allison Zibelli, MD, FACP

*Practice Focus: Hematologic Malignancies

For further information contact:
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
www.jeffersonhospital.org/cancer

Staging

If the biopsy shows that you have multiple myeloma, your doctor needs to learn the extent (stage) of the disease to plan the best treatment. Doctors may describe multiple myeloma as smoldering, Stage I, Stage II, or Stage III. The stage takes into account whether the cancer is causing problems with your bones or kidneys. Smoldering multiple myeloma is early disease without any symptoms. For example, there is no bone damage. Early disease with symptoms (such as bone damage) is Stage I. Stage II or III is more advanced, and more myeloma cells are found in the body.

People with multiple myeloma have many treatment options. Patients can be treated with chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and steroids may be administered to help slow or reverse the progression of fast-growing myeloma cells. Many patients will ultimately opt for a stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant allows you to be treated with high doses of drugs. The high doses destroy both myeloma cells and normal blood cells in the bone marrow. After you receive high-dose treatment, you receive healthy stem cells through a vein and new blood cells develop from the transplanted cells. Patients receiving a stem cell transplant should expect to stay in the hospital for several weeks or months after the procedure due to the increased risk of infection.