Dec. 13, 2006 -- Multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects a particular cells in your bone marrow called plasma cells.
These plasma cells normally comprise only about 5 percent of the cells in your bone marrow -- the spongy, blood-producing tissue that fills the center of most bones. But in patients with multiple myeloma, the plasma cells multiply out of control.
Having too many plasma cells can erode the bones, and it can also interfere with the function of bone marrow and the immune system, leading to anemia and infection. Kidney problems are also common in multiple myeloma patients.
Currently, the exact cause of multiple myeloma is not known.
Multiple myeloma is relatively rare. According to the American Cancer Society, about 16,570 new cases of multiple myeloma -- 9,250 in men and 7,320 in women -- will be diagnosed during 2006.
The current five-year survival rate, however, is low compared to some other cancers -- at around 32 percent. New treatments may improve this figure in the years to come.
About 11,310 Americans -- 5,680 men and 5,630 women -- are expected to die of multiple myeloma in 2006.
Common symptoms of multiple myeloma include:
Bone pain, usually in the back Broken bones, usually in the spine Weakness and fatigue Extreme thirst Frequent infections and fevers Weight loss Nausea or constipation Frequent urination
(Source: National Cancer Institute)
For more information, check out these Web sites:
The International Myeloma Foundation: http://www.myeloma.org/
The American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/What_is_multiple_myeloma
From the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/multiple-myeloma/
And, a great overview from the National Institutes of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/multiplemyeloma.html
To donate to the International Myeloma Foundation in Peter Boyle's name, send a check to:
International Myeloma Foundation
12650 Riverside Drive
North Hollywood, California 91607
New York Presbyterian Hospital
525 East 68th Street
New York, New York 10021