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Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a rare blood cancer that starts in plasma cells in bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside your bones. 

  • Plasma cells are part of the immune system. When they are doing their job, they help your body fight infection by producing proteins called antibodies.
  • If you have multiple myeloma, your plasma cells are growing out of control. As a result, they form tumors in bone marrow and in solid parts of bones.

Multiple myeloma tumors weaken your bones and prevent bone marrow from producing healthy blood cells or fighting infection.

Although there is no cure for multiple myeloma, doctors can manage the cancer for years in many patients. 

Multiple myeloma symptoms

Multiple myeloma symptoms include the following:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Weakness, fatigue or shortness of breath
  • Bone pain, often in the back or ribs
  • Unexplained broken bones
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections and fevers
  • Increased thirst and urination

Multiple myeloma risk factors

Medical experts do not know exactly what causes multiple myeloma. Some risk factors include the following:

  • Exposure to radiation
  • Family history of multiple myeloma
  • Obesity
  • Demographic factors: age (over 65), gender (male) and race (African-American)

Multiple myeloma complications

Multiple myeloma, if left untreated, can lead to serious complications:

  • Kidney failure
  • Bone fractures
  • High levels of calcium in the blood
  • Increased risk of infection, especially in the lungs
  • Weakness or loss of movement if a tumor presses on the spinal cord

How can I get help for multiple myeloma?

Your primary care physician may detect multiple myeloma through blood tests for other conditions, especially if you don’t have symptoms. Further tests that your doctor may use to confirm the diagnosis include the following:

  • Imaging, including X-rays and CT, PET and MRI scans, to look for fractures or weakened areas of bone
  • Bone marrow biopsy to evaluate plasma cells
  • Bone density testing to look for a loss in bone density

Care for multiple myeloma at Rush

Your treatment plan will address your cancer, as well as the multiple organs affected by multiple myeloma, to help you have an active life.

Your care team has the following treatment goals:

  • Control cancer cell and tumor growth
  • Manage your pain and other symptoms, such as neuropathy
  • Address complications, such as broken bones

Specialists at Rush may recommend one or a combination of the following options to treat your cancer:

You may also need care to address complications, such as the following:

Why choose Rush for multiple myeloma care

  • Patients can receive care from the team at the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Multiple Myeloma Clinic, where specialists work together to treat all aspects of your cancer.
  • A diagnosis of multiple myeloma can be overwhelming. Rush offers support services for you and your family, including a support group for patients with multiple myeloma.
  • Rush is an academic medical center with active clinical trials studying multiple myeloma. These research efforts help bring the latest treatment therapies directly to you.
  • The bone marrow and stem cell transplant program at Rush is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT).
  • Rush is consistently ranked among the top U.S. hospitals for orthopedics and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report.

Departments and programs that treat this condition