|cancer, myeloma||medical dictionary|
A bone marrow cancer involving a type of white blood cell called a plasma (or myeloma) cell. The tumour cells can form a single collection (a plasmacytoma) or many tumours (multiple myeloma). Plasma cells are part of the immune system and make antibodies. Because patients have an excess of identical plasma cells, they have too much of one type of antibody. As myeloma cells increase in number, they damage and weaken the bones, causing pain and often fractures. When bones are damaged, calcium is released into the blood leading to hypercalcaemia (too much calcium in the blood) and that causes loss of appetite, nausea, thirst, fatigue, muscle weakness, restlessness, and confusion. Myeloma cells prevent the bone marrow from forming normal plasma cells and other white blood cells important to the immune system so patients may not be able to fight infections. The cancer cells can also prevent the growth of new red blood cells, causing anaemia. Excess antibody proteins and calcium may prevent the kidneys from filtering and cleaning the blood properly.
(12 Dec 1998)
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