Multiple Myeloma

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a growth of abnormal plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cells that are made by the bone marrow. Normal plasma cells make antibodies to fight infection. When you have multiple myeloma, the plasma cells are not normal and the numbers increase. The increased numbers of abnormal plasma cells make a lot of abnormal antibodies that are not useful and may be harmful. Myeloma cells crowd out normal blood cells made by the bone marrow.

There are different types and stages of multiple myeloma based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the cancer cells started and where they have spread. Knowing the type and stage of multiple myeloma you have helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat multiple myeloma as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the cancer cells and control the cancer.

The cause of multiple myeloma is not well known. However, you may be more at risk for developing multiple myeloma if you are overweight or obese, have a family history of multiple myeloma, have other plasma cell diseases, or are over age 65.

What can I expect in the hospital?

Several things may be done while you are in the hospital to monitor, test, and treat your condition. They include:


  • You will be checked often by the hospital staff.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • Your blood oxygen level may be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
  • Your fluid intake may be monitored closely by keeping track of everything you eat and drink and any IV fluids you receive.
  • Your fluid output may be monitored closely by keeping track of the amount of urine and bowel movements you produce.


Tests may include:

  • Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer.
  • Blood, urine, or other tests to monitor how well your organs are functioning
  • Urine tests to check for protein in your urine
  • Tests to look for abnormalities in your bones, which may include:
    • Bone marrow biopsy: A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of bone marrow for testing.
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of bones
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the bone
    • X-rays: Pictures of the inside of the chest, back, arms, or legs to check for bone tumors
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows areas where the radioactive material is being absorbed.


The treatment for multiple myeloma depends on your symptoms, how well you respond to treatment, your overall health, and any complications you may have. Your chance of cure depends on how far the cancer has advanced. You may need to make lifestyle changes to stay as healthy as possible

  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
  • Treatments may include:
    • Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells.
    • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
    • Biological therapy, which uses medicine designed to help your immune system fight the cancer or block the growth of cancer cells.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Treat or prevent low blood counts caused by the cancer or its treatment.
    • Treat or slow bone disease
    • Help your immune system fight cancer

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Back pain
    • Constant aching deep in your bone that gets worse when you move
    • Depression
    • Redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or drainage from your surgical wound
    • Fever, chills, or muscle aches.
  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many things, such as your general health, why you are in the hospital, and the treatment you need. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with multiple myeloma is 9 to 12 days. Talk with your provider about how long your stay may be.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-22
Last reviewed: 2014-12-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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