Plasma cell myeloma is another name for multiple myeloma. It’s a cancer that develops in a type of blood cell called plasma cells. It’s not curable, but you can often manage it well with medications.

According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing plasma cell myeloma in the United States is about 1 in 132. Your risk increases with age, and most people are over 65 when their doctor diagnoses them.

Myeloma often doesn’t cause symptoms at first. However, as the disease progresses, people may experience symptoms related to:

  • C = calcium (elevated levels)
  • R = renal failure
  • A = anemia
  • B = bone damage

This article takes a closer look at the symptoms, treatment options, and outlook for plasma cell myeloma.

What’s the difference between plasma cell myeloma and multiple myeloma?

Plasma cell myeloma and myeloma refer to the same condition. Other names for the same disease include:

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Plasma cell myeloma is a type of blood cancer that develops in plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce proteins called antibodies. Antibodies bind to molecules your body interprets as harmful and signal to other white blood cells to attack them.

Cancerous plasma cells produce non-functional antibodies called M-protein. M-protein can crowd out healthy bone marrow cells and lead to many of the characteristic symptoms of myeloma.

Myeloma can cause tumors to form inside your bones, such as your:

  • spine
  • ribs
  • breastbone
  • hips
  • shoulder blades
  • skull
  • arms or legs

Myeloma can also spread to areas outside of your bone marrow, such as your:

  • skin
  • lymph nodes
  • liver
  • kidneys
  • spleen
  • lungs
  • brain or spinal cord
  • genitals
  • breasts
  • gastrointestinal tract

About 0.5–4.8% of people with newly diagnosed myeloma have spread to areas outside their bones.

Plasma cell neoplasms

Myeloma falls into a group of disorders called plasma cell neoplasms. These conditions include cancerous and pre-cancerous cancer, such as:

Myeloma often doesn’t cause any symptoms at first. The most common symptoms of myeloma are abbreviated with the acronym CRAB. They include:

Calcium elevation

Renal failure


Bone disease

  • back problems
  • bone pain
  • easy fractures
  • bone weakness

Learn more about the symptoms of multiple myeloma.

Plasma cell myeloma treatment aims to reduce your symptoms and the number of abnormal plasma cells in your body with medications. Doctors usually administer at least 2 or 3 types of drugs at a time. You may receive:

Other treatment options include stem cell transplants and CAR T-cell therapy.

Stem cell transplants are most often offered to younger adults in good overall health. They involve administering a high dose of medications to destroy your bone marrow cells and then replacing them with transplanted cells.

CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy that your doctor may offer if other treatments haven’t been effective. It involves teaching a type of white blood cell called T cells to recognize cancerous plasma cells and destroy them.

Is plasma cell myeloma curable?

Doctors haven’t yet found a way to cure multiple myeloma, but it can often be managed for years with minimal complications.

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Based on the National Cancer Institute’s SEER data from 2012 to 2018, the 5-year relative survival rate for myeloma in the United States was:

Stage5-year relative survival rate
All stages58%

The 5-year relative survival rate measures how many people with the cancer live at least 5 years compared to people without the cancer.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, factors associated with better survival include:

  • earlier stage
  • younger age
  • good kidney function
  • a low plasma cell labeling index, a measure of how fast your cancer cells are growing
  • higher ability to perform everyday activities
  • blood test results:

Additionally, certain genetic changes have been linked to poorer survival. These include:

  • missing chromosome 13
  • missing part of chromosome 17
  • translocation of chromosome 14
  • extra copy of part of chromosome 1

Plasma cell myeloma is a cancer that develops in plasma cells. It goes by many other names, such as multiple myeloma or simply myeloma. It can crowd out healthy blood cells, damage your kidneys, and damage your bones.

Myeloma isn’t curable, but medications can help manage your symptoms. Some people with myeloma can live for many years and enjoy a high quality of life.