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.
Common symptoms to look for include:
- Bone pain, especially in the spine or chest
- Mental fogginess or confusion
- Feeling tired (fatigue)
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Weakness or numbness in the legs
- Excessive thirst
- Experiencing frequent infections
Risk Factors for Multiple Myeloma
African Americans are at higher risk for developing multiple myeloma than other races, and men are more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma than women.
Other common risk factors for multiple myeloma include:
- Older age, usually over the age of 60, though it can occur at any age
- Family history of multiple myeloma
- A history of other plasma cells diseases, such as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
- Chemotherapy or radiation exposure
- Exposure to certain chemicals, such as tobacco smoke and pesticides
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.