Myeloma is a cancer that develops in the bone marrow. It causes abnormal plasma cells to build up which crowds out all other types of healthy blood cells.

Causes of myeloma

The cause of myeloma is not fully understood. There are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it, including:

  • age
  • radiation exposure, including radiotherapy
  • chemical exposure such as those used in agriculture
  • some health conditions like blood disorders or those that lower your immune system.

In healthy bone marrow cells produce normal antigens and antibodies. In bone marrow with myeloma the abnormal plasma cells crowd out healthy cells and produce large amounts of a single protein.

Symptoms of myeloma

Unlike many cancers, myeloma does not appear as a lump or tumour. Symptoms can include:

  • tiredness
  • repeated infections
  • increased bruising and bleeding
  • loss of weight for no reason
  • aching bones
  • brittle bones.

Diagnosing myeloma

Myeloma is diagnosed using blood and urine tests, x-rays of bones and a bone marrow sample (biopsy).

Treating myeloma

The treatment depends on the person and the stage of myeloma. Treatment may include:

  • tablets and injections
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • blood stem cell transplants.

Cancer treatments

Cancer support

Once someone has been diagnosed with cancer, we know there are some difficult days ahead. No matter where you are on the cancer pathway, there is always someone to connect with for support.

There are local services available to help make things easier for you and your whānau.

Cancer support (search) — Healthpoint (external link)

There are many benefits of belonging to a support group.

Education and support programmes — Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (external link)

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