Blood cells originate from bone marrow (the soft tissue in the center of the bone) and the spleen. The stem cells develop into red and white blood cells and platelets. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce antibodies that are part of your immune system.
Multiple myeloma, also called plasma cell myeloma, is cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. As the cancer grows it may affect the solid part of the bone as well as the marrow. Over 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this disease in 2012.
It is unclear what may cause multiple myeloma. Family history, age, and race increase risk. The disease is highest among African Americans and lowest among Asian Americans. It is rare in people under the age of 35 and most common over 65 years old. Symptoms include fatigue and shortness of breath from anemia, fevers and, as the cancer progresses, bone pain and broken bones. The cancer grows so slowly it may take several years before symptoms even appear.