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Multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer of the plasma cells found in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside most bones. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell.
Multiple Myeloma: What You Need to Know
The University of Vermont Cancer Center offers knowledgeable and respectful staff that take a comprehensive approach to care - delivering clinical excellence and specialized treatment that is centered around you and your family's needs. Our team includes:
- Board-certified Medical Oncologists and Hematologists
- Physician's assistant
- Patient navigator
- Social worker
- Clinical fellows
- Registered nurses
- Nurse practitioners
- Clinical research coordinators
- Support staff
Every patient is unique. You and your family will feel the advantages of personalized, patient-centered care. We optimize your treatment to your specific cancer diagnosis.
Experienced, Trusted Expertise
The UVM Cancer Center's staff physicians are board-certified medical oncologists and hematologists and have additional specialty training in adult and oncology. Our doctors are University of Vermont College of Medicine faculty members and are involved in research, and in the education of the College of Medicine students. Additionally, the attending physicians and fellows staff a 20-bed inpatient service and consult service.
What is Multiple Myeloma?
Multiple myeloma begins with one abnormal plasma cell in your bone marrow, and then it starts to multiply. Cancer cells don't mature and die the way normal cells do. Instead they build up, eventually overwhelming the production of healthy cells.
Less than 5 percent of the cells are plasma cells in healthy bone marrow. But in people with multiple myeloma, more than 10 percent of the cells may be plasma cells.
Because a few myeloma cells may circulate in your blood, they can populate bone marrow in other parts of your body, even far from where they started. That's why the disease is called multiple myeloma. Uncontrolled plasma cell growth can harm bones and surrounding tissue. It can also limit your immune system's ability to fight infections by reducing your body's production of normal antibodies.
Multiple myeloma symptoms can vary from person to person, or early on cause no symptoms. Common multiple myeloma symptoms may include:
- High calcium levels in the blood causes:
- Excessive thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Kidney failure may cause:
- Decreased urine output, although sometimes urine output stays normal
- Fluid retention, causing swelling in your legs, ankles or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Seizures or coma, in severe cases
- Anemia can cause fatigue
- Bone pain, especially in the back or ribs
- Bone fractures
- Weakness or numbness in your legs
- Frequent infections such as:
- Weight loss without trying
Researchers don't know the exact cause of multiple myeloma yet. Several factors may increase your risk of developing multiple myeloma, including:
- Age: Most cases of multiple myeloma develop in adults over the age of 50
- Gender: The condition is more common in men than women
- Race: African Americans more likely to develop multiple myeloma
- Being overweight or obese
- Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS): A condition marked by M proteins, made by abnormal plasma cells, in your blood. It is a precursor to multiple myeloma, and has similar characteristics, but no damage happens to the body
- Certain genetic abnormalities such as:
- Chromosome 14 defect in which a piece of one chromosome moves to a different chromosome (translocation)
- Part or all of chromosome 13 is missing
- Extra copies of certain chromosomes (hyperdiploidy)
- Radiation exposure
- Working in petroleum-related industries
Diagnosis and Treatment: Multiple Myeloma
The UVM Medical Center's physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat multiple myeloma such as stem cell transplant and chemotherapy.
Learn more about multiple myeloma diagnosis and treatment.