Multiple myeloma, also known asm yeloma, is a type of bone marrow cancer.

Bone marrow is the spongy tissue found atthe centre of somebones. It produces the body's blood cells. Multiple myelomaaffects the plasma cells (a type of blood cell) inside the bone marrow.

Myeloma does notusually take the form ofa lump or tumour. Instead, the myeloma cells divide and expand within the bone marrow, damaging the bones and affecting the production of healthy blood cells.

Myelomaoftenaffects many places in the body, which is why it is called multiple myeloma. Commonly affected areas include the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs.

Signs and symptoms

In the early stages, myeloma may not cause any symptoms. It's often only suspected or diagnosed aftera routine blood or urine test.

However, myeloma will eventually cause a wide range ofproblems, including:

  • a persistent dull ache or specific areas of tenderness in your bones
  • weak bones thatbreak (fracture)easily
  • tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath (caused by Iron deficiency anaemia )
  • repeated infections
  • less commonly, bruising and unusual bleeding such as frequent nosebleeds , bleeding gums and heavy periods

While they're unlikely to be caused by cancer, it's best toget aproper diagnosis.

Your GP will examine you to check for bone tenderness, bleeding, signs of infection, and any other symptoms that suggest you may have myeloma.

They may also arrangebloodand urine tests that can detectabnormal proteins produced by myeloma cells.

If myeloma is suspected, you will bereferred to a consultant haematologist (a specialist in blood conditions) for further tests and treatment.

Research is ongoing to try to find new and better treatments.

As with other types of cancer, the outlook depends onthings such as your age and general health. Some people may live less than a year, while others may live 20 years or more.

Overall, about 77in every 100 people will live at least a year, 47 in every 100 will live at least five years, and 33in every 100 will live at least 10 years.

Support groups

If you've been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, you may find it useful tocontact a local or national support group, such as Myeloma UK .

Support groups can offer more information and advice. They can also often put you in touch with other people in a similar situation so you can share advice and talk about your experiences.

TheMyeloma UK website has more information about how they can help you and finding a local support group .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016