MGUS and the Multiple Myeloma Connection

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a medical condition characterized by increased levels of M protein in the blood. M (monoclonal) protein, also called a paraprotein, is produced by plasma cells. Plasma cells produce antibodies called immunoglobulins, which are proteins that attack foreign invaders and help the body fight infections.1,2

How does MGUS develop?

Plasma cells grow in bone marrow. In the normal process of white blood cell growth, plasma cells produce a variety of antibodies that can attack many different kinds of infections. Sometimes plasma cells produce an excess of immunogobulins leading to MGUS.

How common is MGUS and what are the symptoms?

MGUS is a condition that may never produce any symptoms. One of the more common symptoms of MGUS is burning or tingling in the hands and feet. This is called peripheral neuropathy. MGUS has also been associated with other conditions such as osteoporosis and venous thrombosis, as well as with people who have a compromised immune system.

MGUS affects about 1% of the general population. Incidence rises as you age, although it is still low. Risk rates are around 3% of people over age 70.3 The risk is double for veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals.1

How is MGUS diagnosed?

A diagnosis of MGUS is generally made when results from routine blood tests show an increase in protein levels. Your doctor may request additional specialized blood tests, called serum electrophoresis, which can identify the abnormal antibodies found in the blood. Urine tests can evaluate whether any excess protein is spilling over into the urine. Some additional tests, including x-rays, scans and bone marrow samples, may also be requested.

A primary care physician can monitor MGUS with periodic blood and urine tests. This will monitor for any changes in the protein levels in your blood. Treatment is generally not necessary for MGUS if there are no changes to the protein levels and you are not experiencing any symptoms. Monitoring of serum protein levels several times a year allows physicians to look for any changes that would indicate a risk for a more severe condition. Many people live a long life with MGUS without ever developing serious symptoms or progressing to a more serious condition.

MGUS and multiple myeloma

MGUS can be a precancerous condition. It can progress to different kinds of blood cancers including multiple myeloma and lymphoma.1 Around 20% of people who have MGUS will eventually develop a malignant plasma cell cancer, such as multiple myeloma. Almost all cases of multiple myeloma begin with MGUS.2

Multiple myeloma develops when a normal plasma cell mutates, or changes, into a myeloma cell. These myeloma cells can grow uncontrollably and develop into tumors inside and outside of the bone marrow. The disease is called multiple myeloma because tumors develop in multiple locations within the body. As the myeloma cells grow, they displace and break down good blood cells, like white blood cells that fight infection and red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the bloodstream.

View References
  1. Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). Published https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/multiple-myeloma/other-plasma-cell-diseases/monoclonal-gammopathy-undetermined-significance. Accessed online March 12, 2018.
  2. Definition of Multiple Myeloma. Multiple Myelpma Research Foundation. https://www.themmrf.org/multiple-myeloma/what-is-multiple-myeloma/multiple-myeloma-definition/. Accessed online March 11, 2018.
  3. MGUS & Multiple MyelomaMultiple Myelpma Research Foundation. https://www.themmrf.org/multiple-myeloma/what-is-multiple-myeloma/plasma-cell-neoplasms/mgus/. Accessed online March 11, 2018.

Comments

View Comments (5)
  • Lorilosowski
    5 months ago

    Thank you for the link ANTHONY. And as for how I’ve been feeling since my diagnosis, it has been a tough run so far but I am staying positive and strong! At diagnosis, I was Stage III and things went downhill fast. I had chemo, radiation, was hospitalized (pain control & more radiation), had a stem cell transplant… ended up not being able to walk and in a wheelchair (due to massive amounts of radiation) In remission for 10 months after my SCT, then several blood transfusions (ended up weekly) and now I am currently doing an immunotherapy treatment and doing so much better.

  • Anthony Carrone moderator
    5 months ago

    I am so glad to hear you are doing better, @lorilosowski! I know this treatment journey can be really difficult and taxing, physically and emotionally. Please know we are always here for you! How are you adjusting to using our site? I saw you were trying to send a friend request – Where you able to figure it out? Let me know if you have any questions about navigating the site! I will send you a friend request now so you can direct message me if you want! -Anthony (Team Member)

  • Lorilosowski
    5 months ago

    Hi Anthony-I’m still trying to figure out how to log on and how to navigate the site …I’ll figure it out, eventually. Thank you. And I appreciate the support.

  • Lorilosowski
    5 months ago

    I have Multiple Myeloma; I was diagnosed December 23, 2015.

  • Anthony Carrone moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi Lorilosowski – Welcome to the community! How have you been feeling since your diagnosis? Are you currently in treatment? If you feel comfortable posting in our story board, the community may benefit from hearing your experience! Here is the link: Blood-Cancer.com/stories. Warmly, Anthony (Team Member)

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