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How does multiple myeloma affect the body?

Gary J. Schiller, MD
Hematology & Oncology
In patients with multiple myeloma, the cancerous plasma cells are distinct, and produce many substances that dissolve bone, produce toxins that affect the kidneys, suppress the normal bone marrow production of blood cells and impair the immune system (this is a cancer of the immune system). Infections are very common in multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is a hematologic cancer composed of many plasma cell tumors called plasmacytomas. These tumors usually originate in the bone marrow, as this is where plasma cells are produced. As other blood cells are also produced in the bone marrow, the presence of plasmacytomas will interfere with their production, resulting in reduced numbers of red blood cells, other white blood cells, and platelets. This will lead to anemia, increased susceptibility to infections, and reduced ability to form blood clots. As plasmacytomas continue to expand, they spread from the bone marrow into the hard part of the bone, causing bone pain, releasing excessive amounts of calcium into the blood, and weakening the bone so it is easily fractured. The cancerous plasma cells function like normal plasma cells by secreting antibodies (immunoglobulins). Because of the large number of cancer cells, excessive amounts of antibody are produced, which accumulate in the kidneys. This can impair the function of the kidneys and eventually lead to kidney failure. High blood calcium levels can also interfere with kidney function.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.