Multiple myeloma: Cancer in plasma cells

I urge all of you to have blood work done at least once per year.  Our general practitioner insists on drawing blood yearly.  He was the one that caught Dom’s cancer!


Multiple myeloma also known as plasma cell myeloma is a kind of cancer that begins in the plasma cells. Plasma cells are types of white blood cells and are responsible for producing antibodies, which help in protecting the body from germs and harmful substances. These cells are produced in the bone marrow. “In the case of multiple myeloma, these plasma cells are produced in a large number in the bone marrow. They are then circulated through peripheral circulation. This is how it comes into the general blood circulation,” explains Dr Ajay Kumar Jha, MD, DM Consultant Haematologist, Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, Bhaktapur.

No early symptoms 

Multiple myeloma is a disorder of plasma cells in the bone marrow. Smouldering myeloma, which is the first stage of multiple myeloma, is usually asymptomatic. There are usually no signs and symptoms during this stage. People diagnosed with smouldering myeloma aren’t given any treatment. It is usually a wait-and-watch situation, as per the doctor.

Multiple myeloma is usually seen in elderly people, usually around the ages of 70/80 years. It can also occur in younger age groups such as 30-40 years. “There is no specific reason for the occurrence in young ages as such but the cases of multiple myeloma are also reported in young people,” adds Dr Jha.

In addition, the exact cause of multiple myeloma is not yet known.
Bleeding, low count of platelets, anaemia and infection such as pneumonia can be seen in the patients during the later stages. Many people have complaints of bone and back pain. “This is why many patients usually visit orthopaedics in the beginning,” reveals the doctor.

The pain in bones, back pain, fracture of spine and long bones are some of the other symptoms visible in patients. There could be a radiating pain in the patients. “The pain in the back usually spreads to the thigh and legs,” informs Dr Jha.

Along with the problems in bones, some of the patients also show symptoms such as tingling sensation and numbness. This is why before visiting a haematologist many patients go to neurologists in the beginning, as per the doctor.

Multiple myeloma can occur in patients with renal failure. Some other signs of the disease include bone tenderness, weakness, hypercalcemia — increased calcium level in blood. Some of the people even can have an obstruction in excretion and urination.