Multiple Myeloma FAQs

Q. What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. In multiple myeloma, abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) build up in the bone marrow, forming tumors in multiple bones of the body. These tumors may prevent the bone marrow from making enough healthy blood cells.

Q. What are the causes of multiple myeloma?

Plasma cell neoplasms are most often found in people who are middle aged or older.While there is no known cause for multiple myeloma, there are some risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing the disease: Being black, being male, having a brother or sister who has multiple myeloma and being exposed to atomic bomb radiation.

Q. What are the signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma?

The signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma vary, but they may include the following.:
• Bone pain, usually in the back
• Broken bones, usually in the spine
• Feeling weak and very tired
• Feeling very thirsty
• Frequent infections and fevers
• Weight loss
• Nausea or constipation
• Frequent urination

Q. How will my doctor know if I have multiple myeloma?  

Multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms are diagnosed through tests examining the blood, bone marrow and urine including:
• Biopsies (link each test to definitions)
• Physical exam
• Blood tests
• Bone marrow examination
• Bone Survey
• Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
• Cytogenetics
• Flow Cytometry
• Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
• Molecular Testing
• Serum or Urine Protein Electrophoresis
• Serum-Free Light Chain Analysis
• X-rays

Q. What types of questions should I ask my doctor regarding treatment for multiple myeloma or other plasma cell cancer? 

The treatment options will depend on the type of diagnosis you receive. Here are a few questions to start the discussion with your doctor:
• What stage of multiple myeloma do I have and what is the prognosis?
• How many patients with multiple myeloma are treated at your institution each year?
• What are the treatment options and what type of treatment do you recommend and why?
• What are the risks and benefits of each treatment?
• Are clinical trials available for multiple myeloma and other plasma cell cancer types?
• Is it urgent for me to start treatment quickly?
• Where can I go for a second opinion?
• Can I continue with my work and daily routine during treatment?

Q. What types of treatment exist for multiple myeloma and other plasma cell cancer types?

Treatment options depend on the following:
• The type of plasma cell neoplasm
• The age and general health of the patient
• Whether there are health problems related to the disease
• Whether the cancer responds to initial treatment or recurs (comes back)

Treatment Options:
Patients without symptoms may not need treatment.When symptoms appear, treatment of multiple myeloma may include the following:
• High-dose corticosteroid therapy (link each of these w/ underline to definition)
• Thalidomide or Lenalidomide therapy
• Combination chemotherapy
• High-dose chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplant (a.k.a. bone marrow transplant)
• Biologic therapy with monoclonal antibodies
• Radiation therapy for symptomatic tumors in different bones, often in the spine
• A clinical trial of combination therapy
• Bisphosphonate drug therapy may be given to slow bone loss and reduce bone pain

Q. What is the prognosis (chance of recovery) for multiple myeloma and other plasma cell cancer types?

The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on the following:
• The type of plasma cell neoplasm
• The stage of the disease
• Whether a certain immunoglobulin (antibody) is present
• Whether the kidney is damaged
• Whether the cancer responds to initial treatment or recurs (comes back)

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) 300 W. 10th Ave. Columbus, OH 43210 Phone: 1-800-293-5066 | Email: jamesline@osumc.edu