Health Matters: What is Multiple Myeloma?

It’s a cancer that can be triggered by the immune system. Doctors say multiple myeloma happens when our bodies make too many cells.

Dr. Michael Raymond, an oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Health, says when your body gets sick your immune system releases plasma cells to fight off the infection. But if too many plasma cells are produced, patients are at risk for developing multiple myeloma. “When the plasma cells multiply instead of just fighting infection and turning off, they keep on multiplying, that’s what causes the disease.”

Multiple myeloma is a disease that primarily starts in the bone marrow. “Multiple myeloma may have a variety of causes, most of which we believe are environmental,” said Dr. Raymond.

The disease can damage the bones, immune system, kidneys, and red blood cell count. Patients with multiple myeloma may become anemic or develop kidney disease. “In the later stages of the disease, many times people will have problems with pain because the disease starts with the bone marrow and if those plasma cells start eating away at the bone they can weaken the bones causing bone pain and bone fracture,” said Dr. Raymond.

Multiple myeloma typically targets patients who are over the age of 60. “There are many, many treatment options. The landscape of myeloma treatment has changed over the last year with many new drugs being discovered and approved by the FDA,” said Dr. Raymond.

Chemotherapy is a common treatment. Because the disease is found through a blood test, doctors say it’s important patients notify them if they are experiencing any new symptoms of pain.