Multiple myeloma, also known as simply myeloma, or Kahler’s disease (because the condition was described for the first time by the Austrian doctor Otto Kahler about one hundred years ago), is a hematologic cancer develops from a plasma cell during hematopoiesis, the physiological process of production or formation of blood cellular components in the bone marrow.
Without an effective and early multiple myeloma treatment, the malignant cells will continue to grow until fetal complications occur.
The condition affects a type of white blood cell called plasma, immune system cells which produce antibodies (immunoglobulins) to fight infections and diseases. Plasma cells are specialized in manufacturing antibodies. In myeloma, all the plasma cells that abnormally proliferate come from a single abnormal plasma cell in the bone marrow which starts to reproduce into 2 malignant daughter cells, and then 1000s. Instead of producing antibodies, they produce abnormal protein (m protein) which not only cause tumors, but also damage to the kidneys, and the immune system.
It also occurs that the M protein is produced in incomplete form as a small fragment. This is called “light chains”, light chain myeloma or Bence Jones myeloma. If this small fragment is found in the urine, it is called Bence Jones protein. More rarely, the malignant plasma cells do not produce M protein or Bence Jones protein; the condition is then a “non-secreting multiple myeloma.” It is more difficult to diagnose and treat this type of the disease – Please see multiple myeloma treatment for more information.
The fact the cancer develops when plasma cells in the body begin to proliferate in the bone marrow, it is characterized by the development, in bone or soft tissue (extramedullary), multiple malignant plasma cell tumors (plasmacytomas) which secret, in 80% of cases, a single immunoglobulin known as monoclonal (Ig, also called M-protein). Myeloma can also lead to secretion of Immunoglobulins IgA, IgG.
At the beginning, multiple myeloma symptoms may be mild or completely unnoticed. In the early stages of the disease, you might not even know that you suffer from the cancer, as it is the cases of most cancers. However, whether asymptomatic or not, the tumor continue to affects the bones and blood cells.
Effects on Bone
Myeloma also affects your bone. In fact, the malignant plasma cells produce a substance which promotes the destruction of bone tissue. The result is a decalcifying in parts of the skeleton, which gives rise to weakness in certain locations in the bone. Small fractures can easily occur at these locations. For additional information Please see multiple myeloma symptoms.
Effect on Other Blood Cells
Because of their large number, the malignant plasma cells gradually take the place of other white blood cells normally found in bone marrow. Therefore, the production of other antibodies, necessary to ensure the defense of the body decreases.
The production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets is also hampered by this invasion of the cancerous cells in the bone marrow. This tends to be manifested by
- Increased risk of bruising (bruises)
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Prolonged bleeding, even in case of small wounds.