During March, people with multiple myeloma and their families, friends, and caregivers promote awareness of the disease and advocate for action initiatives.

Multiple myeloma, sometimes just called myeloma, is a condition that causes cancer in your plasma cells. Myeloma is considered a rarer form of cancer, but an estimated 35,700 people are diagnosed with it yearly in the United States.

Multiple Myeloma Action Month, which takes place annually in March, is a time to focus efforts on action initiatives to improve the lives of people with multiple myeloma. Action initiatives include:

  • increasing awareness of screening guidelines and risk factors to promote early detection of multiple myeloma
  • fundraising to support research to develop new multiple myeloma treatments
  • raising visibility for people with multiple myeloma as well as their caregivers and loved ones

People affected by the condition may wear or display a burgundy ribbon to signify that they are part of the multiple myeloma community.

Multiple myeloma facts

  • According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in every 132 people will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma
  • Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky, New York, Mississippi, and Florida all have higher multiple myeloma rates than average
  • Multiple myeloma occurs more often in non-Hispanic Black people and those assigned male at birth
  • Myeloma is the second most commonly diagnosed form of blood cancer
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Multiple myeloma can be an isolating diagnosis. Many people don’t know much about the condition or can’t understand what treatment can be like.

Multiple Myeloma Action Month is an opportunity to get more educated and involved, even if you are already a part of the myeloma community.

Ideas to consider:

  • Find out more about your risk for multiple myeloma by speaking with a doctor about your medical and family histories.
  • Learn how to spot the warning signs and possible early symptoms of multiple myeloma.
  • Reach out to someone in your community who lives with multiple myeloma and offer to drive them to an appointment, help with housework, relieve a primary caregiver for an hour or two, or simply take them out for coffee.
  • If you have multiple myeloma, consider signing up to be a part of a clinical trial. You can ask your cancer care team about trials that might be appropriate for you, or click here to search for multiple myeloma clinical trials.
  • Donate to an organization that funds research and support for multiple myeloma
  • Plan a workplace event that raises money for a vetted organization or promotes information from a trusted expert in oncology.

Is there a specific multiple myeloma awareness day?

The last Thursday in March is recognized by some groups as Multiple Myeloma Action Day.

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Researchers are still studying the causes of multiple myeloma. Exposure to some chemicals may contribute to developing this cancer. However, few identified risk factors can be avoided, so there is not much you can do to modify your risk.

Here are some risk factors to keep in mind:

  • People assigned male at birth are more likely to have multiple myeloma.
  • People of African American descent develop this type of cancer more often than people with other racial backgrounds.
  • The median age of diagnosis for this condition is 63 years old.
  • Occupational exposure from chemicals such as pesticides, wood dust, and fuel oil products may increase your risk of multiple myeloma.
  • People who have the abnormal blood protein condition known as MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance) are at increased risk.
  • People with solitary plasmacytoma are more likely to have multiple myeloma

Screening recommendations for multiple myeloma

It can be hard to spot the signs of multiple myeloma. Knowing your risk factors can help you get an early diagnosis.

People who have MGUS or solitary plasmacytoma should have blood panels taken annually to screen for multiple myeloma. Speak with a doctor about your risk of multiple myeloma to determine whether you need regular screening.

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The early signs of multiple myeloma can be hard to detect, especially if you aren’t aware of what to look for. Knowing your risk for the condition can help you recognize possible symptoms of the condition.

Possible signs of multiple myeloma can include:

  • bone pain or bone weakness
  • broken bones or hairline fractures due to seemingly minor injuries
  • symptoms of high blood calcium levels, including:
    • thirst
    • constipation
    • frequent urination
    • abdominal pain
  • confusion and dizziness
  • peripheral neuropathy (a feeling of numbness or “pins and needles” on your skin)

People diagnosed with multiple myeloma may want to connect with others living with the condition. Support is available through online forums, nonprofit groups, and in-person support groups.

You can get started by checking out these resources:

For people with multiple myeloma, as well as their family members, friends, and caregivers, March is a time to share information and promote research for new treatments.

When you see a burgundy ribbon in March, you may want to take a moment to consider how you can support those who are living with this cancer.