Multiple myeloma, more commonly referred to as myeloma, is a type of blood cancer that develops in plasma cells found in bone marrow. A plasma cell is a type of white blood cell. These cells are part of the healthy functioning of the immune system intended to produce antibodies that fight infections under normal conditions. When they turn into cancer, abnormal antibodies are created called M proteins. These proteins are not helpful for the immune system and as the cancer progresses, the M proteins overtake the healthy antibodies and other symptoms of myeloma begin to develop.
Three Types Of Multiple Myeloma
The three kinds of multiple myeloma are monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), asymptomatic myeloma and symptomatic myeloma. When a patient has a high number of M proteins, but no other tumors or symptoms, this is usually a sign of MGUS, which starts out as benign but can turn into multiple myeloma. Approximately 16% of MGUS patients develop multiple myeloma.
Most commonly, MGUS affects people over the age of 70. When a patient has an increasingly high level of both plasma cells in the bone marrow and M proteins, this is a sign of asymptomatic multiple myeloma. Some of the symptoms are anemia and lesions on their bones. Finally, when a patient is quite visibly ill with symptoms of anemia, vomiting, infections and renal failure, this is often a sign of symptomatic myeloma.