Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Multiple Myeloma: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2008 Oct 1;78(7):860.

  See related article on multiple myeloma.

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma (say: MY-el-OH-ma) is cancer of the bone marrow cells. These are called plasma cells. Plasma cells normally make antibodies, which help your body fight infection. Multiple myeloma can cause tumors to grow in your bones. It can also cause the plasma cells to make too many antibodies. This can stop your body from fighting infection, hurt your kidneys, and thicken your blood.

What are the symptoms?

You may have bone pain and your bones may break more easily. You may also be weak and tired, lose weight, have numbness, or keep getting infections. Some people don't have symptoms.

How can my doctor tell if I have it?

Your doctor can test your blood, urine, and bone marrow to see if you have it. If you have it, you may need x-rays to see how bad the disease is.

How is it treated?

Treatment is usually not needed unless you have symptoms. There is no cure, but several treatments can slow the disease. Your doctor may give you medicine to help with pain and other symptoms.

What should I do if I have it?

  • See your doctor if you have a fever or infection.

  • You are more likely to get certain infections, so ask your doctor about getting vaccines to protect you.

  • Ask your doctor before taking over-the-counter pain medicine, like ibuprofen (one brand: Motrin) or naproxen (one brand: Aleve).

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Cancer Society

Web site:

International Myeloma Foundation

Web site:

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

Web site:

National Cancer Institute

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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Apr 15, 2021

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