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What is Multiple Myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that occurs when plasma cells (white blood cells) become abnormal and multiply rapidly. This causes them to interfere with the production of normal blood cells.
The plasma cells make an abnormal protein that is sent into the blood and urine. In the blood, these proteins are called monoclonal proteins (M proteins) or paraproteins. In the urine, they are called Bence Jones proteins.
If these proteins build up in large amounts, the kidneys may have trouble processing all of the protein. This may cause the kidneys to stop working as well as they should. Multiple myeloma cells also can eat away at areas of bone, putting these bones at higher risk of fracture.
Multiple Myeloma Causes
The exact cause of multiple myeloma is not known and no avoidable risk factors have been found. In 2015, an estimated 124,733 people in the United States were living with this disease. Although its exact cause is unknown, this type of cancer can be controlled in most patients, sometimes for many years. However, certain things appear to make you more likely to develop multiple myeloma.
Risk factors for multiple myeloma:
- Age: Over 65
- Gender: Men are slightly more likely to develop multiple myeloma.
- Race: African-Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to develop multiple myeloma.
- Radiation exposure
- Family history: If a parent, brother or sister has the disease, your risk is four times higher. However, this is rare.
- Working in oil-related industry: While some studies suggest this, it has not been proven.
- Other plasma cell diseases: If you have had one of the following you are at higher risk:
- A precancerous condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
- A single tumor of plasma cells (solitary plasmacytoma)
Learn more about multiple myeloma:
Why choose MD Anderson for your multiple myeloma treatment?
Many times, treatment for multiple myeloma may continue for extended periods, with repeated remissions and recurrences. For this reason, our teams of experts, including specially trained support professionals, forge close medical relationships with you to be sure you receive personal, customized care. This individualized attention gives you the best chance of a full and healthy life. With so many new treatment options and combinations available for multiple myeloma, studies have shown improvements in clinical outcomes for patients who have a relationship with an oncologist specializing in the treatment of multiple myeloma.
MD Anderson has been instrumental in some of the biggest advances in multiple myeloma treatment, including Revlimid® (lenalidomide), a derivative of thalidomide. It is one of the most important discoveries in multiple myeloma therapy. We've also found that combining this drug with chemotherapy drugs often has a profound effect on multiple myeloma, even after other treatments have failed.
At MD Anderson, you benefit from one of the most active research programs in the United States, which includes a prestigious federally funded SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) program. This means we are able to offer a wide range of clinical trials (research studies) for every stage of multiple myeloma.
Cancer, after all, is a battle, and a positive attitude and hope are crucial weapons. So far, I win!
Multiple Myeloma Moon Shot
MD Anderson’s High-Risk Multiple Myeloma Moon Shot® aims to rapidly and dramatically improve the disease’s survival rates and reduce suffering through earlier intervention, research and new treatments.Learn more about the Multiple Myeloma Moon Shot
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