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A plasmacytoma is a malignant plasma cell tumor. Plasmacytoma usually occurs when cancer begins in the plasma cells, or white blood cells, that produce antibodies. Malignant plasma cells typically do not die as they should, but instead accumulate and form a tumor known as a plasmacytoma. These tumors usually form either in the bone marrow or in soft tissues such as the esophagus. Plasmacytoma of the bone may spread to other bones and become multiple myeloma.
Plasma cells form a vital part of the immune system because they produce the antibodies that offer immunity to disease. The typical immune system has a different type of plasma cell for each type of antibody that is produced. Healthy plasma cells typically grow old and die to be replaced by new cells. When cancer of the plasma cells occurs, new cells can form too quickly and old cells can live too long. The presence of excess plasma cells in the body can lead to the development of a tumor in the bone marrow or extramedullary tissues.
The extramedullary tissues are the soft tissues of the sinuses, throat, and esophagus. When plasmacytomas form in extramedullary tissues, they can typically be cured with a combination of surgery and radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Plasmacytoma of the bone is typically treated with radiation therapy. These tumors can be diagnosed through blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, and biopsy.
The prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer, the patient's overall health and age, and the cancer's response to treatment. The cancer is staged according to whether it occurs in the extramedullary tissues or in a single bone. An isolated plasmacytoma occurs in the bone marrow of one bone, takes up no more than five percent of the marrow of that bone, and causes no overt symptoms of cancer. An extramedullary plasmacytoma occurs in the soft tissues of the throat, esophagus, or sinuses and not in any bones. The prognosis for extramedullary plasmacytoma is usually better than that for isolated plasmacytoma.
When the cancer spreads to multiple bones, the resulting condition is typically known as multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma can be a slow-growing cancer that causes no symptoms for years. Multiple myeloma can impair the bone marrow's ability to produce adequate supplies of blood cells. Symptoms can include bone pain, fatigue, recurrent infection, and easily fractured bones.
Muliple myeloma can be difficult to treat. Patients in the early stages of the disease are often monitored without treatment. Treatment generally begins when the symptoms become more severe.