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Myeloma

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What is myeloma?

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer which affects plasma (a type of white blood cell). Plasma produces antibodies which help to fight off infections.

In myeloma, B lymphocytes do not develop properly into plasma cells but continue to reproduce rapidly. These immature cells can’t help you to fight off infections . They also fill up in your bone marrow, preventing it from producing all types of healthy blood cells.

You can find out more about myeloma, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatments, on the Myeloma UK and Blood Cancer UK websites.

Facts about myeloma

  • Nearly 6,000 people are diagnosed with myeloma each year in the UK.
  • Myeloma is more common people over the age of 75.
  • Myeloma can develop anywhere in the body, and it sometimes called ‘multiple myeloma’.
  • People of an Afro-Caribbean background are twice as likely to develop myeloma.
  • There were 5,820 stem cell transplants in the UK to treat myeloma in 2020.

Myeloma and stem cell transplants

If you’re diagnosed with myeloma, you’ll have an initial course of treatment which aims to keep it under control. However, full remission is not always possible. You might then have a 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 younger and fitter patients with a particularly aggressive type of myeloma will have an allogeneic transplant – when the new stem cells are donated by someone else.

It’s possible to have up to two autologous transplants for myeloma. You might have a second transplant if your myeloma returns and you responded well to the first transplant.

It all started with a really bad back, which I initially thought was another squash injury. But the weeks passed, and it just got worse.

Mark, who had a stem cell transplant to treat multiple myeloma in 2017. You can read his story on our blog.

Information published: 16/02/22
Next review due: 16/02/23

Related links

Preparing for a stem cell transplant

Having a stem cell transplant

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