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The information in this section about myeloma can help you talk with members of your healthcare team and take an active role in your treatment. Knowing what to expect and being able to make informed decisions about your cancer treatment are important aspects of coping with your disease. You can skim sections to find what you want to read now - and continue reading whenever you're ready for more information.

What You Should Know

  • When a patient has myeloma that affects multiple sites at the time of his or her diagnosis, the disease is called multiple myeloma.
  • Some patients have disease that progresses very slowly, which is referred to as "asymptomatic" and/or "smoldering" myeloma; with "asymptomatic myeloma," a patient has the disease but no disease-related symptoms.
  • Most people diagnosed with myeloma are older than 60 years.
  • Hematologists and oncologists are specialists who treat people who have myeloma or other types of blood cancer.
  • Treatment outcomes vary widely among patients; results depend on many individual factors.

What You Should Do

  • Talk with your doctor about your diagnostic tests and what the results mean
  • Talk with your doctor about all your treatment options and the results you can expect from treatment.
  • Ask your doctor whether a clinical trial is a good treatment option for you.

What Is Myeloma?

Myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow. It affects the plasma cells.

Myeloma has several forms:

  • Multiple myeloma is most common: More than 90 percent of people with myeloma have this type. Multiple myeloma affects several different areas of the body.
  • Plasmacytoma - only one site of myeloma cells evident in the body, such as in the bone, skin, muscle, or lung.
  • Localized myeloma - a few neighboring sites evident.
  • Extramedullary myeloma - involvement of tissue other than bone marrow, such as skin, muscles or lungs.

Doctors divide myeloma into groups that describe how rapidly or slowly the disease is progressing:

  • Asymptomatic or smoldering myeloma progresses slowly and has no symptoms even though the patient has the disease.
  • Symptomatic myeloma has related symptoms such as anemia, kidney damage and bone disease.

Myeloma belongs to a spectrum of disorders referred to as "plasma cell dyscrasia."

LLS Support Services

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) offers many ways to help you cope, from live telephone support to family support groups to online chats and more. To learn more about our free programs for patients, family members and caregivers, see Get Information and Support.

We also offer free informational publications and education programs, such as:

  • disease and treatment guides for myeloma
  • the Myeloma Education Series featuring the latest information about each disease type and treatment options
  • MyelomaLinks, a monthly eNewsletter with the latest news, research updates, clinical trials and events sponsored by LLS
  • eNewsline, a monthly eNewsletter with the latest information about blood cancer research and treatment, LLS events, news and featured LLS programs and comments from individuals coping with blood cancer

Source: Myeloma. Reviewed by Melissa Alsina, MD.

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last updated on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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