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Multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer affecting white blood cells made in bone marrow. Around 300 people are diagnosed with myeloma each year in Ireland. It usually affects people over 50.

Treatment for myeloma includes active monitoring or drug therapies.

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow. Around 300 people are diagnosed with myeloma in Ireland every year. There are several treatments that can slow down and control multiple myeloma very well. In 2019, some 2,000 people were living with myeloma in Ireland.

When you have myeloma, abnormal plasma cells are made in your bone marrow. These abnormal cells are called myeloma cells. 

  • Healthy plasma cells. Produce antibodies (immunoglobulins) to fight infection and keep you healthy. 
  • Abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells). Usually produce a lot of abnormal antibodies called paraproteins. Paraproteins cannot fight infection properly and also reduce the amount of healthy antibodies, so you will be more likely to get sick.

Myeloma can affect your immune system, blood cell production and other parts of your body like your bones and kidneys. This can cause symptoms. Myeloma cells can travel from the bone marrow into harder parts of the bone and cause damage to bone tissue. This can cause weakened bones, which are more likely to break.

Why is it called multiple myeloma?

Myeloma normally affects more than one bone. For this reason, myeloma is often called multiple myeloma because it affects multiple places.

More information about diagnosing multiple myeloma

More information about treatment of multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a chronic disease. This means a long-lasting / long term illness. Today with newer drugs patients are living far longer and leading fuller lives. Current treatments can bring about a complete remission in some patients. This means that the symptoms of multiple myeloma disappear and the bone marrow recovers, but it is not a cure of the disease and you may start to get symptoms again after a time.

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