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What is Kappa Myeloma?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Kappa myeloma is a type of cancer which affects the plasma cells found in bone marrow. These cells become abnormal, or mutated, and grow out of control. Healthy plasma cells produce immunoglobins, which are antibodies to help the body fight off disease and cancers. Kappa myeloma is distinguished as such when abnormal plasma cells begin to produce and distribute an altered immunoglobin containing the kappa protein.

Normal plasma cells produce a wide array of immunoglobins to help protect the body against a host of pathogens, cancer cells, and other foreign bodies. In patients with kappa myeloma, they only create one type. This altered immunoglobin contains a protein called kappa light protein. Patients with this condition may experience a marked decrease in immune function, and the protein can become concentrated in the blood, leading to kidney failure. Those with kappa myeloma are at an increased risk for renal failure when compared with those who suffer from other types of myeloma or blood cancer.

There is usually no cure for kappa myeloma. Chemotherapy or radiation may prolong life, but most patients die of the disease within ten years from diagnosis. It generally affects the large bones of the body and may cause a wide array of symptoms. Patients with myeloma are an increased risk of early onset osteoporosis, fractures, and other bone disorders. Other symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, pain in the arms, legs, or back, and symptoms of kidney failure such as trouble urinating, pain when urinating, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and lower back pain.

Patients with kappa myeloma are also at risk for lowered immune function, and this leads to a much higher susceptibility to secondary illnesses and infections. Cancer treatments may lower immune function further. Those with a compromised immune system should avoid large groups where diseases may more easily spread and wash their hands frequently.

Although typically incurable, myeloma medications have come a long way and drugs are under development that may drastically increase patients’ lifespans and quality of life during the course of illness. Medications may be used to slow the course of the disease and to reduce pain. Separate medications may also be needed to improve kidney function and to boost the immune system in order to ward off additional illnesses.

Kappa myeloma is typically diagnosed through blood tests, urine protein tests, and bone marrow testing. Additional samples may be taken to identify whether the kappa immunoglobin protein is present. Treatment typically begins immediately with a specialist known as a hematologist-oncologist. Overall life expectancy after diagnosis may depend on several factors including the progression of the disease and the patient’s overall age and health.

Occasionally, myeloma will go into remission. This means that there are few or no cancer cells and symptoms may no longer be present. While this does happen, myeloma is generally considered incurable because most patients will experience a recurrence of cancer at some point.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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