Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Female chemotherapy patient with her doctor talking about myeloma.

Female chemotherapy patient with her doctor talking about myeloma.
beginning of content

Multiple myeloma

2-minute read

Myeloma, or multiple myeloma, is a type of cancer of cells called plasma cells. When plasma cells grow abnormally and build up in the bone marrow, they are known as myeloma cells. Currently there is no cure, but treatment is available. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that fight infection. They are not the same as plasma, which is fluid that carries the components of blood.

What causes myeloma?

The cause of myeloma is not known. Some people who develop myeloma have been exposed to high doses of radiation, and some have had ongoing exposure to some industrial or environmental chemicals. Others develop myeloma without these risk factors.

Myeloma is more common later in life. This may be the ageing process itself, or the result of a lifelong accumulation of toxic substances. The average age that myeloma is diagnosed in Australia is 70.

Myeloma symptoms

Myeloma affects different places in the body – for example, the spine, skull, pelvis, shoulders and hips. Common symptoms may include:

  • bone pain or a broken bone not caused by injury
  • anaemia and fatigue
  • kidney damage
  • frequent or prolonged infections

You might also feel generally weak and tired, lose weight and have less appetite. You may be thirstier, feel nauseous or confused due to increased calcium in the blood.

Myeloma diagnosis

Symptoms of myeloma may be similar to many other conditions, so it can be difficult to diagnose, and requires several tests.

These may include:

Myeloma treatment

Although there is no treatment which can cure myeloma, there are a range of treatments like chemotherapy that can slow the disease down and help ease symptoms. The way different people respond to treatment can vary greatly.

Talk to your doctor about the options. It’s important to read reliable sources of information, and that you discuss your options with family, friends and perhaps other patients. It might help to get advice from organisations such as Myeloma Australia and the Leukemia Foundation of Australia.

If you make the decision not to have treatment for the myeloma, you can still get plenty of treatment for the symptoms. It might help to see a palliative care specialist for help in managing pain and other symptoms.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Multiple myeloma - Better Health Channel

Multiple myeloma is cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Multiple myeloma: Overview | Cancer Council Victoria

Multiple myeloma is cancer of plasma cells in bone marrow - too many plasma cells are made, preventing enough normal blood cells forming and reducing the ability to fight infection.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Multiple myeloma - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Rare Cancers Australia - Multiple Myeloma/Other Plasma Cell Neoplasms

Plasma cell neoplasms are diseases in which the body makes too many plasma cells.

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

Beta-2 Microglobulin - Lab Tests Online AU

Why, how and when beta 2 microglobulin testing is done

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Protein and immunofixation electrophoresis - Lab Tests Online AU

Brief explanations of protein electrophoresis and immunofixation electrophoresis

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Rare Cancers Australia - A Place to Learn

We understand it may be difficult to find information about a rare cancer, especially at a time when life may already seem stressful and confusing enough

Read more on Rare Cancers Australia website

What is cancer? | Cancer Australia

Cancer is a disease of the cells, which are the bodys basic building blocks. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way. These abnormal cells can damage or invade the surrounding tissues, or spread to other parts of the body, causing further damage.

Read more on Cancer Australia website


Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells that usually arises in the bone marrow and develops when these cells undergo a cancerous change.

Read more on Leukaemia Foundation website

Whole Body MIBI Myeloma Scan - InsideRadiology

InsideRadiology provides free and easily accessible, accurate, up to date and credible information about medical imaging tests and procedures.

Read more on InsideRadiology website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo