Debra Wood, RN
Multiple myeloma develops slowly over the course of several years. The body is initially able to compensate for changes in blood so symptoms may not appear until advanced stages. Symptoms depend on the blood cells affected and the location of the tumors. If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to cancer. Most of these symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. However, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. Early detection and treatment improve outcomes for both cancer and other health conditions.
Bone pain can appear anywhere, but is most common in the back, ribs, hips, or skull. Normally, healthy bone tissue is maintained through a constant process of breaking down old bone tissue and rebuilding new tissue. Myeloma cells can boost bone destruction without increasing the rebuilding process. As a result, the bone becomes weak and easily fractured. Even small fractures in the bone can cause pain.
Bone pain can also be caused by growth of tumors.
A drop in the number of normal white blood cells makes it harder for the body to fight infection. Symptoms may include:
A drop in the number of normal red blood cells is called anemia, which decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the body's tissues. Symptoms of anemia may include:
A drop in the number of normal platelet cells makes it harder for blood to clot properly. Without clotting, even small injuries can lead to severe bleeding. Symptoms may include:
The accelerated breakdown of bone tissue caused by multiple myeloma releases excess levels of calcium into the blood. In most cases, elevated calcium levels in the blood may go undetected. As levels increase, serious symptoms may appear, which require treatment. High levels of calcium in the blood, called hypercalcemia, may cause:
Untreated or severe hypercalcemia can to kidney failure, coma, or death.
Depending on it's location, multiple myeloma tumors can cause:
General information about plasma cell neoplasms.
National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
Updated October 1, 2015. Accessed May 12, 2016.
Hypercalcemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116018/Hypercalcemia. Updated June 7, 2015. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Multiple myeloma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003121-pdf.pdf. Accessed May 12, 2016.
Multiple myeloma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116888/Multiple-myeloma. Updated August 16, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Multiple myeloma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/plasma-cell-disorders/multiple-myeloma. Updated August 2013. Accessed May 12, 2016.
Signs and symptoms. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/disease-information/myeloma/signs-and-symptoms. Accessed May 12, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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