Multiple Myeloma is an incurable cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells and, like all blood cells, are produced in the bone marrow. They secrete as many as hundreds to thousands of antibodies per second per cell, but each cell can only produce antibodies for one specific antigen.
When a person has Multiple Myeloma, their body produces a higher than normal amount of plasma cells. This can affect the person's bones, immune system, kidneys, and red blood cell count.
Multiple Myeloma affects people of all ages, race, and gender. However, most people who are diagnosed are at least 65 years old. Men are slightly more likely to develop Multiple Myeloma and it is more than twice as common in African Americans, though the reason is not known.
Scientists do not yet know what causes MM and there is no known way to prevent it from developing. To make matters worse, it is difficult to get an early diagnosis. There are often no symptoms until the cancer has reached an advanced stage, and since it is a rarer form of cancer, the symptoms may at first seem to be caused by other problems.
There are only three stages for Multiple Myeloma and the median survival rate ranges from 29 months for Stage III to 62 months for Stage I.
Information from the Mayo Clinic and The American Cancer Society.