Cancer InDepth: Multiple Myeloma

Cancer is a disease in which cells grow in an abnormal way. Cells should grow in a controlled way to replace old or damaged cells. Multiple myeloma (MM) is the abnormal growth of a certain type of blood cell. It creates more of these blood cells than is needed. These cancer cells do not work as a blood cell should. They also crowd out other healthy blood cells.

Cancer Cell Growth

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Normal Blood Cells and the Development of Multiple Myeloma

All blood cells start in the bone marrow as stem cells. Stem cells mature into many types of blood cells that have certain roles in the body. These are:

  • Red blood cells—Carry oxygen from the lungs to the organs and cells of the body.
  • Platelets—Help the blood clot to stop bleeding.
  • White blood cells—Help the body fight infection and disease.

Bone Marrow Sites in Adults

nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Multiple myeloma is a problem with a type of white blood cell called plasma cells. This means the body will have a hard time fighting off infections. The extra cells will also make it hard for healthy red blood cells, platelets, and other white blood cells to form in the bone marrow. This will make it harder for the body to get oxygen or cause problems with blood clotting.

Multiple myeloma cells also make something called M protein. This protein travels in the blood and can cause damage to organs like the kidneys.


MM is grouped by how fast it grows and what problem it is causing. It is possible for the cancer to be in one tumor in one place. It is grouped as:

  • Smoldering—Progresses slowly without symptoms.
  • Symptomatic—Bone, kidney, and blood cell problems are causing symptoms.


General information about plasma cell neoplasms. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated April 9, 2019. Accessed May 6, 2019.
Multiple myeloma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 29, 2019. Accessed May 6, 2019.
Myeloma. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: Accessed May 6, 2019.
What is multiple myeloma? American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated February 28, 2018. Accessed May 6, 2019.
Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 5/6/2019

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.