Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that occurs when a specialized white blood cell, a plasma cell, begins to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. Normal plasma cells are a part of the immune system that produces antibodies to help fight against infections and keep us healthy. In multiple myeloma, these plasma cells produce antibodies that are ineffective.
Multiple myeloma occurs when the overgrowth of plasma cells takes place in multiple areas of the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft spongy tissue in the middle part of the bone where blood cells are formed.
The average age of those receiving a diagnosis of multiple myeloma is 65 years. In Canada, about 2,900 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma every year. There is a 1 in 117 lifetime chance of developing multiple myeloma.