Myeloma – also known as multiple myeloma – is a type of bone marrow cancer. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue at the centre of some bones that produces the body's blood cells. 

About myeloma

Myeloma is a cancer that develops after changes in the DNA of plasma cells in the bone marrow. (DNA is the genetic material that tells cells what to do.) As these faulty cells divide and multiply, they eventually cause a cancer. 

These abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) affect the production of normal blood cells. 

The myeloma cells usually produce an antibody protein called a paraprotein or myeloma protein. This abnormal protein can damage the kidneys and affect the body’s ability to fight infections. 

The plasma cells inside the bone marrow can damage the bone itself. It can thin the bone causing pain.

Myeloma is also known as multiple myeloma as the cancer can affect bone marrow in different areas of the body. 

Find out more about myeloma in this video from Dr Lynny Yung

In the early stages, myeloma might not cause any symptoms. It is often only suspected or diagnosed after a routine blood or urine test.

If symptoms occur, they are caused by the build-up of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow and by the paraprotein in the blood.

Eventually myeloma may cause a number of symptoms including:

  • Persistent bone pain, usually in the back, ribs or hips
  • Weak bones that break (fracture) easily – if this affects the spine, it might cause symptoms such as pins and needles, numbness and weakness in the legs and feet, and problems controlling your bladder and bowels, which requires emergency investigation
  • Tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath – caused by anaemia
  • High levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia) – which may cause symptoms including extreme thirst, stomach pain, needing to pee frequently, constipation or confusion
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision, dizziness or headaches – caused by thickened blood (hyperviscosity)
  • Repeated infections
  • Bruising and unusual bleeding 
  • Kidney problems

Myeloma doesn't usually cause a lump or tumour. Instead, it damages the bones and affects the production of healthy blood cells.

Dorothy Williams.pngDorothy’s story

Dorothy Williams (pictured left) was first diagnosed with myeloma in 1996 and is a patient at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. Read Dorothy’s story.

Treatment at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre 

Treatment depends on a range of factors including the type, size, stage and location of your tumour. It may also depend on your age, general health and genetic factors (linked to the DNA changes in your cells) that tell us how your cancer developed. 

Treatment options can include one or more of the following:

  • Drug therapies such as chemotherapy, targeted treatments and immunotherapy. The general term for these is systemic anti-cancer therapy (SACT)
  • Radiotherapy 

When you are diagnosed, your care will be discussed at a multidisciplinary team meeting (MDT) where different specialists will consider the best treatment options for you. Your doctor will discuss this with you so you can decide what is right for you.

Treatment can often help to control myeloma for several years but it cannot be cured. 

Research is taking place to find new treatments that will control the condition for longer. 

Treatment for myeloma usually includes:

  • Anti-myeloma medicines to destroy the myeloma cells or control the cancer when it comes back (relapses)
  • Radiotherapy treatment can be used to help if the cancer is causing pain, or there is a risk of it damaging nerves in the spine
  • Medicines and procedures to prevent and treat problems caused by myeloma – such as bone pain, fractures and anaemia

As part of your treatment, you might be asked if you want to take part in a clinical trial to help researchers develop better treatments for multiple myeloma.

Systemic anti-cancer therapy (SACT)

SACT is a term used to describe the different drug therapies for cancer. These include: 

  • Chemotherapy – which aims to kill cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy – which aims to train your immune system to attack cancer 
  • Targeted therapies –  which specifically target and interfere with processes inside cells that help cancers grow

Find out more about systemic anti-cancer therapy at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre


Radiotherapy may be given for various reasons, depending on how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Sometimes it is used to shrink the tumour before, during or after other treatment. Sometimes it is used to relieve symptoms such as pain. 

We use different types of radiotherapy, depending on the size, location and stage of the cancer. 

The radiotherapy treatments we offer for myeloma include:

  • Traditional external beam radiotherapy – where radiation is delivered from outside the body

Find out more about radiotherapy at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre

Research and trials of new cancer treatments are an important part of our work. Your consultant will tell you about any clinical trials that may be suitable for you.

You are also very welcome to ask us about clinical trials during your appointments. We will be happy to answer any questions you have. 

Find out more about clinical trials.

We provide systemic anti-cancer therapies (e.g. chemotherapy, targeted therapies and immunotherapy) for myeloma at the following sites:

We provide radiotherapy for myeloma in our three specialist sites: 

Clinical trials for myeloma are delivered at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool.

Our team

The team consists of doctors, an advanced nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialists and research nurses. We also have a clinical support worker in Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Aintree (CCC-Aintree).

The team’s main base is in Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool but they also work at CCC-Aintree.

Our operational management team makes sure the service runs smoothly.


Dr Gillian Brearton    
Dr Stephen Hawkins
Dr Jim Seale
Dr Lynny Yung 

Advanced Nurse Practitioner

Craig Simon

Clinical Nurse Specialists

Sarah Griffiths
Annette Hughes
Amanda Parr
Lizzie Williams

Research Clinical Nurse Specialists

Irwin Balquin
Justine Hewlett

Cancer Support Workers

Haydn Pidcock (CCC-Aintree)

Further information

Our Cancer Information and Support Centres can provide individualised help and support for patients and families affected by cancer. The Cancer Information and Support team’s main base is in Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool but they also work at our Aintree and Wirral hospitals.

There are also local Macmillan services in other hospitals across our region.


Your GP or medical specialist will refer you to our myeloma team if they think you might have myeloma or a related condition. 

This might be because you have symptoms or because a blood test has found changes in your blood. 

If you have suspected myeloma, we will usually want to see you in clinic within a few days of receiving the referral. 

Sometimes related non-cancerous conditions can cause abnormal blood results. In these circumstances, we will usually want to see you in clinic within a few weeks of receiving the referral.