Multiple Myeloma vs Leukemia: A Comparison of Blood Cancers

multiple myeloma vs leukemia

Blood cancers, such as multiple myeloma and leukemia, are serious conditions that affect the blood and bone marrow, impacting the body’s ability to fight infections and control bleeding. Knowing the fundamental differences between these disorders is critical for accurate diagnosis and therapy.

Multiple Myeloma vs Leukemia: Understanding Each Blood Cancer

You must first comprehend what each type of blood cancer generally means to understand the difference between leukemia and multiple myeloma.

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that damages plasma cells, which are essential components of the immune response. In this disorder, aberrant plasma cells grow uncontrollably in the bone marrow, interfering with the formation of good blood cells and potentially leading to bone cancer.

The average lifetime risk of developing multiple myeloma in the United States is approximately 1 in 103 for men and 1 in 131 for women. However, individual risk may vary depending on specific risk factors.

What is leukemia?

In contrast, leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that mostly affects white blood cells. In leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which can lead to a weakened immune system and other complications. Leukemia can be acute, progressing rapidly, or chronic, progressing more slowly over time.

In 2023, it is anticipated that 59,610 individuals will receive a diagnosis of leukemia. There are approximately 437,337 individuals in the United States who are either living with or in remission from leukemia.

Key Differences between Multiple Myeloma and Leukemia

Both multiple myeloma and leukemia originate from blood cells, yet they represent distinct forms of cancer. Here are several key points highlighting their differences:


Multiple Myeloma: Starts when plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell in the bone marrow, become abnormal and grow out of control.

Leukemia: It starts when white blood cells in the bone marrow become unusual and grow fast, driving out healthy ones.


Multiple Myeloma: Often causes bone pain, especially in the back or ribs, due to weakened bones. It can also lead to weakness, feeling very tired, and getting infections often.

Leukemia: Often causes tiredness, pale skin, and easy bruising or bleeding. People with leukemia may also get infections frequently.


Multiple Myeloma: Doctors use blood tests, urine tests, and imaging tests like X-rays and MRIs to diagnose. They may also perform a bone marrow biopsy, which involves extracting a small sample of bone marrow to detect cancer cells.

Leukemia: Diagnosed through blood tests to check for abnormal cells. A bone marrow biopsy is done to see if the bone marrow is making too many abnormal cells. Imaging tests may also be used.


Multiple Myeloma: Treatment includes drugs to kill cancer cells (chemotherapy) andtargeted therapy to target specific abnormalities. Immunotherapy boosts the immune system. Steroids reduce inflammation and kill cancer cells. A stem cell transplant may be done. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays. Supportive care helps manage symptoms.

Leukemia: Treatment includes drugs to kill cancer cells (chemotherapy) and targeted therapy to target specific molecules. Immunotherapy boosts the immune system. A bone marrow transplant may be done. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays. Surgery is rare, but it may be done to remove an enlarged spleen. Supportive care helps manage symptoms.


Multiple Myeloma: The prognosis varies depending on the stage of the disease and other factors, but it is generally considered incurable.

Leukemia: Prognosis varies depending on the type and stage of the disease; some types of leukemia can be cured with treatment.

Which is Worse: Leukemia or Multiple Myeloma?

Deciding which of the two diseases, leukemia or multiple myeloma, is more severe is challenging due to their potential for serious consequences and the need for intensive treatment. Despite advancements in treatment that have enhanced the outlook for both conditions, they remain potentially life-threatening.

Moreover, it’s important to note that myeloma is not classified as a type of leukemia. Despite both being blood cancers, they stem from different types of white blood cells and exhibit unique features.

Additional Tips in Managing Leukemia & Multiple Myeloma

Managing leukemia and multiple myeloma involves a comprehensive approach that includes medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and emotional support. Here are some tips:

  • Follow your treatment plan: Adhere to your prescribed medication schedule, attend all medical appointments, and communicate regularly with your healthcare team.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Maintain a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Exercise regularly and get enough rest to keep your body strong and better able to cope with treatment.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to help your body stay hydrated, especially if you are undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Manage stress: Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are all relaxation techniques that can help you reduce stress and enhance your general well-being.
  • Seek support: Join a support group or connect with other leukemia or multiple myeloma patients to share your experiences and receive emotional support.
  • Stay informed: Educate yourself about your condition and treatment options so you can make informed decisions and communicate effectively with your healthcare team.
  • Monitor your health: Keep track of your symptoms and notify your healthcare staff right away if anything changes.
  • Follow-up care: Attend all follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and address any concerns.
  • Stay positive: Maintain a positive outlook and focus on the things you can control, such as following your treatment plan and taking care of yourself.
  • Stay connected: Keep in touch with family and friends for emotional support and to maintain a sense of normalcy in your life.

Myeloma vs. Leukemia: Determining the Blood Cancer

In conclusion, multiple myeloma and leukemia are both serious blood cancers that require prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment. While they share some similarities, such as their impact on the blood and bone marrow, they also have key differences. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of either condition, seeking medical attention for proper evaluation and management is essential.


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