Myeloma

Myeloma

What is myeloma?

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer. It develops from cells in the bone marrow called plasma cells. As bone marrow is found throughout the body, myeloma can affect multiple areas at the same time, and the disease is often called multiple myeloma.

Learn more about:


The blood

Blood is pumped around your body to provide oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, and to remove waste products. It is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, and each has a set function.

All three types of blood cells live for a limited time and need to be continually replaced. Most are made in the bone marrow, which is the spongy part in the centre of the bones.

The bone marrow contains stem cells. These are unspecialised blood cells that develop into mature red or white blood cells or platelets. Once mature, the blood cells are usually released into the bloodstream to carry out their set functions.

Stem cells


How myeloma starts

Bone marrow produces three main types of blood cells: red cells, white cells and platelets. Plasma cells are a special type of white blood cell. Myeloma starts when the plasma cells become abnormal and multiply, crowding the bone marrow. They usually also release an abnormal antibody (paraprotein) into the blood.

How myeloma starts


How myeloma affects the body

Myeloma begins when abnormal plasma cells, known as myeloma cells, start multiplying. Normal plasma cells make a wide variety of antibodies that help the body fight infections, but myeloma cells make an abnormal antibody known as paraprotein, M-protein or monoclonal protein. Paraprotein is found in the blood of most people who have myeloma.

Because the myeloma cells crowd out the bone marrow, there is less space for normal blood cells to develop and keep you healthy. A lack of:

  • normal plasma cells and other white blood cells can make a person more likely to get infections
  • red blood cells (anaemia) can cause fatigue
  • platelets (thrombocytopenia) can cause bleeding and bruising.

 

Cancerous plasma cells sometimes form a single tumour in the bone or tissue, rather than spreading throughout the bone marrow. Known as solitary plasmacytomas, these tumours are not common and make up only about 5% of plasma cell cancers.


How is it different from leukaemia?

Myeloma and leukaemia are both types of blood cancer, but they affect the body differently. Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and is easily detected on a blood test. Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are not usually found in the blood. Plasma cells normally stay in the bone marrow.

Who gets myeloma?

Myeloma is not a common disease. About 1750 people in Australia are diagnosed with the disease each year. It accounts for 15% of blood cancers and 1% of all cancers generally. The disease is more often found in people over 60, which is partly explained by the ageing population. It is rare in people under 40. Myeloma is slightly more common in men than in women.


What causes myeloma?

The causes of myeloma are unknown. We know that plasma cells become cancerous when there are certain changes in their DNA. DNA is found in all cells. It carries instructions that control how cells work. However, we do not yet know what causes DNA to change.

Exposure to certain chemicals (e.g. dioxins used in industry), high levels of radiation (e.g. from working in a nuclear power plant) and viruses (such as HIV) have been linked to an increased risk of myeloma, but they have not been proven to cause it.

People with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) are more likely to develop myeloma.

Myeloma is not considered to be hereditary (inherited) and there is little risk of passing it on to your children. It is rare for more than one person in a family to be affected by myeloma, although this does happen occasionally.


Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on myeloma.


Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in October 2018
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment

Cancer information

Blood cancers
Learn about the different blood cancers, such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends

SHARE
TOP BACK TO TOP