NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 7,847 terms related to cancer and medicine.

Browse the dictionary by selecting a letter of the alphabet or by entering a cancer-related word or phrase in the search box.

plasma cell myeloma
(PLAZ-muh sel MY-eh-LOH-muh)
A type of cancer that begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies). Also called Kahler disease, multiple myeloma, and myelomatosis.

EnlargeBlood cell development; drawing shows the steps a blood stem cell goes through to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell. A myeloid stem cell becomes a red blood cell, a platelet, or a myeloblast, which then becomes a granulocyte (the types of granulocytes are eosinophils, basophils, and neutrophils). A lymphoid stem cell becomes a lymphoblast and then becomes a B lymphocyte, T lymphocyte, or natural killer cell. A B lymphocyte may become a plasma cell.

Blood cell development. A blood stem cell goes through several steps to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell.

EnlargeMultiple myeloma; drawing shows normal plasma cells, multiple myeloma cells (abnormal plasma cells), and antibodies. Also shown is red marrow inside bone, where plasma cells are made.

Multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma cells are abnormal plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) that build up in the bone marrow and form tumors in many bones of the body. Normal plasma cells make antibodies to help the body fight infection and disease. As the number of multiple myeloma cells increases, more antibodies are made. This can cause the blood to thicken and keep the bone marrow from making enough healthy blood cells. Multiple myeloma cells also damage and weaken the bone.