Information for the public


Myeloma (also called multiple myeloma) is a rare type of cancer that affects plasma cells, causing too many to be produced in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the tissue that makes blood cells. Plasma cells are a type of blood cell made by the bone marrow, and are part of the immune system (which stops you getting infections). Myeloma can develop anywhere there is bone marrow, so can affect lots of different bones in your body (for example, the spine, pelvis, ribs, and the long bones in your arms and legs).

Myeloma can cause anaemia (a shortage of red blood cells, which can make you feel tired all the time), pain and fractures in your bones, and can damage your kidneys. It can also make it easier for you to get infections, and harder for you to recover from them. There is no cure for myeloma, but there are treatments that can reduce the number of myeloma cells in your body, help with the symptoms and improve your quality and length of life.

This information also includes advice on 2 specific subtypes of myeloma: primary plasma cell leukaemia and smouldering myeloma.

Primary plasma cell leukaemia

Primary plasma cell leukaemia is a very rare subtype of myeloma, which happens when plasma cells affected by myeloma get into the blood. It causes many of the same symptoms, but the treatments for it can be different.

Smouldering myeloma

Smouldering myeloma (which used to be called asymptomatic myeloma) is a subtype of myeloma that doesn't normally cause any symptoms. It can start causing symptoms and become myeloma over time, and if this happens it will need to be treated.

Because smouldering myeloma doesn't normally cause symptoms, it's not clear if treatment is helpful, or what information and support people with this condition need. However, your care team should still follow the advice given by NICE when diagnosing smouldering myeloma, when doing any tests before you are diagnosed, and when arranging follow-up checks with you.

Questions to ask about myeloma

  • Can you tell me more about myeloma?

  • Can you tell me more about my type of myeloma?

  • Are there any support organisations? Are any of them in my local area?

  • Can you provide any information for my family/carers?

  • Where can I (and my family/carers) find more information?

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