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Is Myeloma a Blood Cancer?

plasma cell myeloma from bone marrow aspirate

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer, or hematological malignancy. It is similar to leukemia, although leukemia typically affects white blood cells while myeloma affects plasma cells.

What are plasma cells?

Plasma cells are located in the bone marrow. It’s important to note that bone marrow plasma cells are not the same thing as plasma, which is the clear, protein-containing liquid component of the blood.

Bone marrow plasma cells are responsible for making antibodies, which are the proteins that the immune system uses to destroy foreign viruses and bacteria. However, if these plasma cells become cancerous, they can overproduce these antibodies (specifically, immunoglobulin). Excess immunoglobulin can eventually accumulate into a tumor known as a plasmacytoma. (The development of multiple plasmacytomas is known as multiple myeloma.)

How is myeloma treated?

Because myeloma is a type of blood cancer, rather than a solid tumor, the cancerous cells are often present in several locations throughout the body. (One exception is localized myeloma, which involves just one plasmacytoma). As a result, systemic treatments such as chemotherapy are usually used to destroy cancerous cells throughout the entire body. Localized treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy may also be used to target a specific plasmacytoma, while stem cell transplantation can be used to replace damaged white blood cells with healthy ones.

Multiple myeloma treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Malignant Hematology Program is home to a number of oncologists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of blood cancers, including myeloma. Here, in one convenient location, patients can consult with:

  • Hematologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Surgeons
  • Immunotherapists
  • Blood and bone marrow transplant specialists
  • Supportive care providers

A physician’s referral is not required to schedule a consultation at Moffitt. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.