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What is Multiple Myeloma?

September 20, 2017

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma is a form of cancer when plasma cells grow out of control and become cancerous. The immune system is made up of several types of cells to help fight infections. There are the lymphocytes which is the main cell of the immune systems. Lymphocytes are composed of two major types such as the T cells and B cells. B cells responds to infections and mature into plasma cells. These plasma cells then make antibodies to help attack and kill the infection. Lymphocytes can be found all over the body such as the blood stream, the bone marrow, the intestines, and the lymph nodes.

 

Multiple Myeloma is characterized by several features:

Low Blood Counts

The overgrowth of plasma cells can overcrowd normal blood cells leading to lower blood counts. Which in turn causes anemia which is a shortage of red blood cells. The overgrowth of plasma cells can also lead to a shortage of normal white blood cells which can lead to problems fighting infections in the body.

Bone Problems and Calcium Levels

Fractured bones are a major issue in patient’s with Myeloma. Plasma cells make a substance that tells the osteoclasts to dissolve quicker to make new bones.  The increase in too much bone break down can cause a raised levels of calcium in the blood.

Infections

Normal plasma cells help produce antibodies to protect the body from infections. In multiple myeloma, the abnormal amount of plasma cells over crowds the normal plasma cells and the antibodies to fight the infection cannot be made.

Kidney Damage

The overgrowth of antibodies made by the myeloma cells are harmful to the kidneys causing damage and at times cause kidney failure.

Monoclonal Gammopathy

Monocolonal Gammopathy is having many copies of the same antibody. This condition does not affect everyone with multiple myeloma It can also occur in other diseases such as lymphomas and waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.

Light Chain Amyloidosis

Antibodies are made up of two types of protein chains. Two short light chains and two longer heavy chains. Abnormal plasma cells produce too many light chains that causes deposit in tissues and build up known as Amyloid. This buildup of amyloid can lead to enlarged or failure of the organs such as the heart and kidneys.

Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance

Abnormal plasma cells that produces the same copies of an antibody are called a monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance or MGUS. It usually does not affect a person’s health, however, MGUS will eventually develop into lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or amyloidosis.  Patients with MGUS normally do not need treatment but they are watched closely to see if it develops into multiple myeloma.

Solitary Plasmacytomas

Solitary Plasmacytomas is another type of abnormal plasma growth which develops in bones or tissues. This is most often treated with radiation therapy and sometimes surgery.

 

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