Myeloma affects plasma cells, a type of mature white blood cell in your blood that produces antibodies to help fight off infections.
In myeloma, B lymphocytes do not mature properly into plasma cells but continue to reproduce rapidly. These immature cells accumulate in your bone marrow and prevent it from producing other types of blood cell. It also increases chemicals that breakdown and remodel bone, leading to pain and fractures in some cases. Myeloma is often referred to as multiple myeloma because this thinning of bones can happen anywhere in your body where there is bone marrow.
Myelomas can be grouped into three stages based on the level of two proteins (called beta2 microglobin and albumin) in your blood. Each group responds differently, so this helps doctors plan the most effective treatment for you.
Cell type: Plasma cells that produce antibodies to fight infections.
Frequency: 5,500 / year in the UK
UK transplants: 1,453 in 2016
Risk: More common in people over 75
Treatment: Chemotherapy and then possibly a stem cell transplant
Other info: Patients of an Afro-Caribbean background are twice as likely to develop myeloma
You’ll have an initial course of treatment which aims to keep the myeloma under control and put you into remission – which means that there are no signs of cancer in your body. This might be followed by a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. People with myeloma are most likely to have an autologous transplant - when doctors use your own stem cells.
Although it's rare, occasionally some patients who are younger and fitter, but with a particularly aggressive type of myeloma, have an allograft transplant – when the new stem cells are donated by someone else.
For some people, after the first autologous transplant, no more transplants will be planned unless their disease returns and they responded well to the first transplant. It's possible to have up to two autologous transplants for myeloma.
Please speak to your medical team for more information about your own situation, as they will be able to give you personalised and specific advice.
‘I had to totally focus on a positive outcome and live my life as normally as I could, knowing that I would need a lot of time away from work and that often I would feel ill.’
Jamie, who received a bone marrow transplant to treat multiple myeloma in 2013. Read his story here.
Some of our transplant recipients have also been kind enough to share their experience of treatment for myeloma. You can read their stories here: