Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is not a hard disease to diagnose if you know what to look for, but the signs and symptoms are very generic and may be easy to ignore. Suzanne Lentzsch, MD of Columbia University shares the common issues caused by multiple myeloma.
Some common signs and symptoms include:
Fatigue and Anemia
When one antibody grows out of control, it can crowd out red blood cells, causing fatigue and anemia. It's easy to shrug off being "extra tired" and account it to a lack of sleep, older age or being out of shape, but anemia is an indicator of multiple myeloma. It's a good idea to get blood tests yearly to see if your blood levels are in normal ranges.
Bone pain is another unspecific symptom that can indicate myeloma. Pain in the spine or ribs are common as myeloma lesions are commonly found in these areas. Having bone pain from normal daily activities or persistent bone pain for no reason in one area can indicate bone fractures. Bone pain is more common the older we get, so it's easy to write it off to age, a muscle pull or even the need for a chiropractor. Listen to your body and ask for a simple x-ray to see if you have any bone damage that could be caused by myeloma.
When myeloma damages the bone, the bones release calcium into the blood. Having high levels of calcium in the blood or "hypercalcemia" is an indicator of multiple myeloma. High calcium can also cause nausea or vomiting, which you'd never relate to elevated calcium. A simple blood test can indicate if your calcium levels are higher than normal.
Multiple myeloma creates too much of one type of protein (a "monoclonal" protein). Too much protein can damage nerves and cause neuropathy, or numbness and tingling in the hands or feet. Neuropathy can also be caused by diabetes which can be more common as we get older. If your hands or feet feel "fuzzy" or you are having "pins and needles" sensations, ask your doctor to test for a monoclonal protein. It's a simple blood test.
Talk to Your Doctor
There are many of my myeloma friends who report that they went months or years with these types of symptoms, brushing them off or even having a doctor ignore their thoughts that "something" was wrong. If you think something is not quite right, then talk to your doctor and insist they run simple blood tests and an x-ray to rule out multiple myeloma. The longer you wait, the more end-organ damage can occur. As Dr. Lentzsch says, "The patient is always right!" You know your body better than anyone and should feel confident that you can track the symptoms down with the help of a doctor.
For more information, learn more about the basics of multiple myeloma here,