Multiple myeloma (also referred to simply as myeloma), is an uncontrolled growth or cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are part of the immune system and are a type of white blood cell normally responsible for producing antibodies. Plasma cells are mainly found in the bone marrow, the hollow area within the bones.
Because plasma cells are found in the blood, myeloma is considered a hematologic or blood cancer. The word “multiple” is often used because the malignant cells usually affect multiple areas of the bone marrow.
When plasma cells reproduce uncontrollably, someone with myeloma has too many plasma cells. In healthy people, plasma cells make up 2-3% of the cells in the bone marrow but in someone with myeloma, they make up at least 10% of the cells. The abnormally high number of plasma cells can crowd out other types of cells that are needed to be healthy, such as red blood cells or platelets.
There are approximately 7,500 Canadians living with myeloma. Although there is no absolute cure, ongoing developments in the management of myeloma are allowing a growing number of patients with diagnosed myeloma to live longer and giving people with the disease the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.
This information from the Multiple Myeloma Patient Handbook produced by Myeloma Canada is available here.