What Is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is classified as cancer within the plasma cells. Normal plasma cells are located in the bone marrow and are essential for the immune system. Several different types of cells make up the immune system. These cells work together fighting off diseases and infections. Lymph cells or lymphocytes are one of the main kinds of white blood cells located in the immune system. This also includes B cells and T cells. Lymphocytes are found throughout the body including in the bone marrow, the bloodstream, lymph nodes, and intestines.

When there is an infection, the B cells respond. The cells then mature and transform into plasma cells. Plasma cells produce antibodies also referred to as immunoglobulins. This is partly how the body attacks and kills germs. The majority of plasma cells are located in the bone marrow. This is the soft tissue found inside of the bones. Normal bone marrow also contains other types of blood cells including platelets, white cells, and red cells.

In most instances, when plasma cells are cancerous they start growing out of control. This is classified as multiple myeloma. An abnormal antibody or protein is produced by these plasma cells. This is referred to under numerous different names including M-protein, monoclonal protein, monoclonal immunoglobulin, paraprotein, an M-spike. Abnormal plasma cells are also found in many other types of plasma cell disorders. These disorders are not considered active multiple myeloma because the criteria are not met.