About Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell (plasma cell) that is responsible for fighting infections by making antibodies to recognize attack foreign invaders (germs). As these cancer cells accumulate in the bone marrow, they crowd out healthy blood cells, creating more abnormal proteins than helpful antibodies. This causes complications, such as bone problems, reduced kidney function, severe anemia, recurrent life-threatening infections, and more.

Types of Multiple Myeloma

The different types of Multiple myeloma are based on the type of immunoglobulin (protein) produced by myeloma cells (malignant plasma cells).

The two main types of multiple myeloma include:

  • Smoldering multiple myeloma, also referred to as indolent or asymptomatic multiple myeloma because it does not cause any symptoms, is a precancerous stage of multiple myeloma that alters certain proteins in blood and/or increases plasma cells in bone marrow.
  • Active multiple myeloma, also referred to as symptomatic multiple myeloma because it causes symptoms, occurs when smoldering multiple myeloma has progressed to a cancerous stage, causing damage to certain organs.

Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma

Early multiple myeloma rarely causes symptoms.

Symptoms of multiple myeloma include:

  • Bone pain, especially in the spine or chest
  • Constipation
  • Excessive thirst
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Frequent infection
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental fogginess or confusion
  • Nausea
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs

Risk Factors for Multiple Myeloma

Certain people are at greater risk for multiple myeloma

Risk factors for multiple myeloma may include:

  • Age: Though multiple myeloma can occur at any age, the condition usually affects those over the age of 60
  • Family history: A family of multiple myeloma increases your risk for the condition, and African Americans are at higher risk for developing multiple myeloma than other races
  • Health history: Multiple myeloma is associated with to a history of other plasma cells diseases, such as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), as well as exposure to chemotherapy and radiation
  • Personal history: Obesity and exposure to chemicals such as tobacco smoke and pesticides have been linked to multiple myeloma
  • Sex: Men are more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma than women

Treating Multiple Myeloma at UT Health Austin

Treatment will require an accurate diagnosis and depend on disease progression. An individual care plan will be developed and tailored to manage symptoms to meet the needs of the individual patient. Decisions about treatment may include combinations of radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and consideration of stem cell transplant.

Care Team Approach

At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, oncofertility specialists, onco-psychiatrists, genetic counselors, physical therapists, dietitians, social workers, and more as well as other members of the CaLM Care Team who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you. We also collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify and utilize new therapies to improve cancer treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with your other healthcare providers to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.

Learn More About Your Care Team

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Hematologic Malignancies

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