Myeloma Groups

There are two main myeloma groups:

Active myeloma: Also known as symptomatic myeloma, which can present with any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Areas of damaged bone (osteolytic lesions) that can be seen in an X-ray
  • Bone fractures
  • Bone or soft tissue tumor(s) containing myeloma cells
  • Presence of M protein in urine or blood
  • Hypercalcemia (high calcium level in the blood)
  • Kidney complications

Smoldering myeloma: A slow-growing, precancerous myeloma marked by an increased number of plasma cells and M protein but without symptoms. Once detected, patients are closely monitored for progression, but no treatment is immediately given. About 50% of patients diagnosed with this condition will develop active myeloma within five years.

Myeloma Types

Heavy Chain Myeloma: Heavy chain myeloma impacts the large subunit of the antibody structure and is classified by the type of abnormal antibodies, or immunoglobulins, produced. There are five main immunoglobulin types: G, A, M, E, or D.

Typically, only one type of immunoglobulin is overproduced in myeloma.

  • IgG is the most common, impacting approximately 60 – 70% of patients.
  • IgA affects approximately 20% of patients.
  •  IgM, IgE, and IgD are rare.

Light Chain (Bence Jones) Myeloma: The body only produces the light chain component of the immunoglobulin. It is usually more aggressive than heavy chain myeloma. It affects approximately 15% of myeloma patients. Symptoms can include weakness, bone pain, and kidney dysfunction, though not all patients will have symptoms at diagnosis.

Non-Secretory Myeloma: A rare myeloma diagnosed in 1 – 5% of patients. Because M proteins are produced in small amounts or not at all, a specific test to measure kappa and lambda free light chains is used to monitor the disease.