About myeloma

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Understanding the disease

What you need to know in order to support your loved one from diagnosis, through treatment, and beyond while taking care of your well-being.

What is myeloma?

Myeloma is the second most common form of blood cancer, yet sadly most people have never heard of it. Myeloma is associated with the abnormal behaviour and uncontrolled growth of a type of white blood cell—the plasma cell. Plasma cells are made in the bone marrow—the spongy tissue found inside bones—and when they’re healthy, they are an important part of your body’s immune system. Plasma cells help fight infection by producing antibodies that attack germs.

In myeloma, the plasma cells become cancerous (myeloma cells) and interfere with the production of healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. Instead of producing antibodies that fight infection and disease, myeloma cells produce abnormal proteins (called monoclonal protein, monoclonal immunoglobulin, or M-protein). These can cause serious complications and affect different parts of the body such as the bones and kidneys. Although myeloma is a blood cancer, sometimes myeloma cells collect and form a plasmacytoma (a tumour made of plasma cells).

The cause or causes of myeloma remain relatively unknown, but there is increasing research that suggests possible associations between myeloma and a decline in immune function, genetic factors, and the environment.

The number of Canadians diagnosed with myeloma is steadily increasing year after year. While there is not yet a cure, people with myeloma are living longer and better lives thanks to recent breakthroughs in research and treatment.

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Continue learning about myeloma

As you become more familiar with myeloma and your loved one’s experiences, the information you’ll need and the questions you’ll have will likely grow. These sections are a good place to start, but there is a wealth of information in both the Recently diagnosed and Living with myeloma sections of this website.

Be sure to also check the Resources section for more in-depth information on a particular topic.

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Being a caregiver—or providing care—can take many forms, and the needs of your loved one may change throughout their journey with myeloma.

Multiple Myeloma Caregiver Handbook

For more information, download the Multiple Myeloma Caregiver Handbook

If you are supporting a loved one living with myeloma, you are a caregiver. Myeloma Canada designed this Handbook to provide you with practical information about caring for your loved one and maintaining your own well-being.