What is myeloma?

  • Myeloma is a disease of blood cells called plasma cells that are an important component of the immune system found in the bone marrow.
  • Their job normally is to produce a type of protein, or antibody that acts as on line of defense against infection, but in myeloma, malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow produce large amounts of an abnormal antibody known as paraprotein.
  • Unlike normal antibodies, paraproteins are not directed against infections and serve no useful function.
  • The excess protein can, however, damage the kidneys leading to kidney failure and slow down the circulation causing confusion and heart failure.
  • On the other hand, expansion of the plasma cells in the bone marrow causes damage and weakening of the bone with bone pain, abdominal pain and constipation, fractures, tiredness, lethargy, weakness, recurrent infections and bleeding.


  • The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), which are classified using a specialized laboratory technique known as immunophenotyping, to characterize unique features of the cancer cells.
  • This is important because it allows the clinician to select the treatment that is likely to induce the best response for that specific type of NHL.


  • Patients commonly present with a swelling in the neck, under the arm or in the groin.
  • Lymphoma is normally a painless condition and early in the course of the disease patients may have no symptoms.
  • However, as the disease progresses non-specific symptoms such as unintended weight loss, fever, night sweats and itching may develop.

Diagnosis and treatment:

  • Treatment requires biopsy of one of the enlarged lymph nodes and a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the type and extent of lymphoma.
  • Specialized radiology imaging is used to evaluate the extent of spread or stage of the disease.
  • The treatment and outcomes of lymphoma have been transformed in recent years by the introduction of novel agents and antibody therapy.
  • The treatment of lymphoma is usually very successful and many people are cured of their disease.


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