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What is Monoclonal Gammopathy?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Monoclonal gammopathy refers to a condition in which a person's plasma cells produce an abnormal type of protein called monoclonal immunoglobulin, or M protein. The presence of M protein does not usually cause health problems, though in large enough quantities they can lead to a type of blood cell cancer known as multiple myeloma. Since there are typically no physical symptoms related to monoclonal gammopathy, doctors usually only recognize the condition after screening blood samples for other problems. Treatment is not needed, though people diagnosed with this condition are encouraged to schedule regular checkups with their doctors to make sure they do not develop cancer.

Plasma cells are specialized white blood cells found in bone marrow. They produce a number of important antibodies and other proteins that allow the immune system to function properly. Due to a random mutation in certain plasma cells, they begin to manufacture quantities of M proteins. Since researchers are unsure what these proteins actually do, they frequently refer to the condition as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. The proteins do not seem hinder immune system functioning unless extremely large quantities are present.

Massive amounts of the protein can prevent the production of other important white blood cells and proteins. The risk of developing blood cell and bone marrow cancers increases as the number of M proteins in the body rises. Some cases progress to multiple myeloma, an especially devastating cancer that prohibits the plasma from making new antibodies. Multiple myeloma can lead to anemia, kidney failure, and severe bone problems.

Monoclonal gammopathy is most common in people over the age of 50, and the risk of developing the condition steadily rises as people continue to age. Research studies suggest that it is more likely to appear in men than in women. A doctor can diagnose monoclonal gammopathy by taking blood and urine samples for laboratory investigation. Analysis of blood samples can reveal abnormalities in plasma cells and give an accurate count of M proteins in the bloodstream. Additional tests, such as bone marrow biopsies and x-rays, can help doctors rule out multiple myeloma and other cancers when making a diagnosis.

Most patients with the condition, especially when the number of M proteins is very low, do not need medical treatment. They are often required to schedule regular checkups with their doctors to monitor the progression of the disorder. Physicians analyze blood samples at regular intervals, usually about every six months, to check for the presence of multiple myeloma and other cancers. Noticing the warning signs of cancer early is essential in providing the most effective treatment.

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.
Discussion Comments
By anon123237 — On Oct 31, 2010

Is there any link between monoclonal gammopathy and EBV?

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