What is myeloma?
Myeloma is a type of cancer that develops from plasma cells, which are found in the bone marrow.
As bone marrow is found in multiple areas of the body (e.g. in the spine, skull, shoulders, ribs and pelvis) the disease is often called multiple myeloma.
The DNA of plasma cells becomes damaged, and this causes the cells to become cancerous. These abnormal plasma cells, known as myeloma cells, divide and spread throughout the bone marrow. The myeloma cells crowd out the bone marrow, so there is not enough space to make enough normal blood cells.
Myeloma can cause a range of symptoms because of its effect on the bones, bone marrow, blood, urine and kidneys. Symptoms may include:
- bone pain or a broken bone that has not been caused by an obvious injury
- frequent infections or an infection that is difficult to shake off
- tiredness, shortness of breath or a racing heart
- heavy nosebleeds or easy bruising
- feeling sick or drowsy.
- About 1300 people in Australia are diagnosed with myeloma each year.
- Myeloma usually occurs in people aged 60 and over. It is rare in people under 40.
- The disease is becoming more common in the elderly, which is partly explained by Australia’s ageing population.
- Myeloma is found more often in men than women.
The aim of this information is to help you understand about myeloma. We cannot advise you about the best treatment for you. You need to discuss this with your doctors. However, we hope this information will answer some of your questions and help you think about the questions you would like to ask your doctors or other health carers.