Myeloma - Overview

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What Is Myeloma?

Myeloma is a form of cancer originating in plasma cells, a vital immune system component. These plasma cells reside in our bone marrow and safeguard our health by producing antibodies.

In a healthy body, plasma cells function seamlessly, contributing to our immune defence. However, in multiple myeloma, this process goes awry.

The bone marrow becomes overrun with cancerous plasma cells. These abnormal cells displace the healthy ones and fail in their primary job. Instead of producing useful antibodies, they create dysfunctional proteins. This malfunction leads to a cascade of issues, marking the onset of multiple myeloma complications.

For some, myeloma is a slowly progressing condition, presenting no immediate symptoms. However, for those where multiple myeloma is more aggressive or symptomatic, a range of treatment options are available. The key is a careful, informed approach, balancing the need for intervention with an understanding of the disease's unique behaviour in each person.

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If you are living with a myeloma diagnosis, contact our London-based haematologist-oncologist. We are ready to provide personalised care.

Types Of Myeloma

Multiple myeloma has two main subtypes

  • Hyperdiploid Multiple Myeloma (HMM):

In this subtype, the myeloma cells possess a higher number of chromosomes than normal. Representing about 45% of cases, HMM is generally less aggressive.

  • Non-Hyperdiploid or Hypodiploid Myeloma:

Contrasting HMM, these myeloma cells have fewer chromosomes than normal. This type tends to be more aggressive.

Even within each subtype, the disease varies significantly in its presentation and progression. Here are some of the different kinds of myeloma

Light Chain Myeloma

This type occurs when only an incomplete immunoglobulin, known as a light chain antibody, is produced.

Non-Secretory Myeloma

In some cases, the myeloma cells don't produce enough detectable M proteins or light chains.

Solitary Plasmacytoma

When cancerous plasma cells form a single tumour, it is called a solitary plasmacytoma. These can occur in bones or other tissues.

Extramedullary Plasmacytoma

These tumours start in soft tissues outside the bone marrow, often in the throat, sinuses, nose, or larynx.

Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS)

MGUS is a precursor condition that can evolve into active myeloma. It involves the production of M proteins but doesn't typically cause other myeloma symptoms.

Smouldering Multiple Myeloma (SMM)

This precancerous form is symptom-free like MGUS, but with more M proteins or myeloma cells in the bone marrow.

Immunoglobulin D (IgD) Myeloma

This rare form affects 1-2% of patients, typically men under 60. It presents similar signs and symptoms as other myeloma types.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Myeloma

The rarest form of myeloma, IgE myeloma is aggressive and often progresses quickly.


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