Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2008;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

International Myeloma Foundation

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

National Cancer Institute

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