Unlike many other cancers, myeloma can affect the body in several ways. Most of the symptoms related to myeloma are caused by the build-up of the abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow and the presence of the paraprotein in the blood or in the urine.
Plasma cells produce immunoglobulins (antibodies), which is a key piece of immune function. In myeloma the immunoglobulin is mal functioning and build up can lead to the following symptoms.
NB – Multiple myeloma may be silent in the early stages and may not present with symptoms and be diagnosed on blood test.
The most common symptoms and complications include the following which your medical team may identify as the acronym CRAB-I
A condition in which the level of calcium in the blood is too high. It can occur as a result of myeloma bone disease and can cause thirst, nausea, vomiting, confusion and/or constipation
R Kidney damage:
Can be caused by the myeloma itself or as a side-effect of treatment
A reduction in the number of red blood cells. It can occur as a result of the myeloma or as a side-effect of treatment and can cause fatigue, weakness or breathlessness
B Bone disease/Pain
The middle or lower back, the rib cage and the hips are the most frequently affected places. The principle cause of pain for myeloma patients is myeloma bone disease. Effective control and management of pain is an important aspect of myeloma treatment
I Recurring infection:
Common in myeloma patients because the myeloma and its treatments interfere with the immune system
Other symptoms include
Due to the myeloma itself, to one or more of its complications (e.g. anaemia), or it can be a side-effect of treatment
Damage to the nerves that make up the peripheral nervous system. It can be caused by the treatments for myeloma and also the myeloma itself
Not everyone will experience all or any of these. Supportive treatments are commonly used alongside and after anti-myeloma treatment to relieve, stabilise and in some cases, help prevent these symptoms and complications.
Source: myeloma.org.uk / Irish cancer society / NCCP