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.
Plasma cells that produce antibodies to fight infections
5,820 / year in the UK
1,506 in 2019
More common in people over 75
Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a stem cell transplant
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.
‘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.
Read his story here.
Many more patient stories are available in our Blogs section.