Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell, is an incurable but treatable disease.
A myeloma diagnosis can be devastating, it is important to remember that there are several promising new therapies. The estimated frequency of multiple myeloma is 5 to 7 new cases per 100,000 persons per year.
Multiple myeloma is characterized by excessive numbers of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow and overproduction of intact monoclonal immunoglobulin.
Hypercalcemia, anemia, renal damage, increased susceptibility to bacterial infection, and impaired production of normal immunoglobulin are common clinical manifestations of multiple myeloma. It is often also characterized by diffuse osteoporosis, usually in the pelvis, spine, ribs, and skull.
There are often no symptoms in the early stages of myeloma. In some cases, myeloma may be discovered by accident during routine blood testing. When present, symptoms may be vague and similar to those of other conditions.
Pain: a common early symptom of multiple myeloma is pain in the lower back or in the ribs. This is the result of tiny fractures in the bones caused by accumulation of plasma cells and weakened bone structures.
Fatigue: As the number of malignant plasma cells increases in the bone marrow, the growth and development of red blood cells in the bone marrow may be suppressed, leading to low levels of red blood cells in the blood. Anemia can result in unusual tiredness and abnormal paleness.
Nervous system dysfunction:
Weakening and collapsing bone structures may impinge on nerves, producing severe pain, tingling or numbness. Myeloma cells often produce abnormal proteins which contribute to the symptoms, and, in large amounts, cause a dangerous thickening of the blood known as hyperviscosity. The most visible aspect of myeloma disease is its effect on bones throughout the body. In the majority of patients with multiple myeloma, soft spots develop where the bone structure has been damaged. These can extend from the inner bone marrow to the outside surface of the bone. Soft spots appear as "holes" on a standard bone x-ray and are referred to asosteolytic lesions.