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What are Myeloma Symptoms?

L. Whitaker
L. Whitaker

Myeloma frequently causes a variety of symptoms, although some cases may be asymptomatic. Myeloma symptoms can include anemia, hypercalcemia, bone pain, frequent infections, and weight loss, among others. This disease requires laboratory testing, bone scans, and other diagnostic tools for proper diagnosis.

Myeloma is a cancer found in plasma cells, which are white blood cells that make antibodies to fight infection. Myeloma is sometimes called multiple myeloma because it often develops within multiple bone marrow sites. Myeloma cells interfere with normal production of antibodies to fight infection, leading to a weakened immune system and the possibility of kidney or bone damage.

Lab testing or bone scans may be required to identify asymptomatic myeloma.
Lab testing or bone scans may be required to identify asymptomatic myeloma.

A key symptom of myeloma is the presence of pain in specific bones, typically in the skull, pelvis, ribs, or back. A related symptom is the occurrence of unexplained bone fractures or swelling. In addition, anemia is frequently listed among possible myeloma symptoms. Anemia is a condition in which there are insufficient numbers of red blood cells to adequately provide oxygen to body tissues. Fatigue can be an indicator of anemia related to myeloma.

Frequent infections of the skin, bladder, respiratory system, or other bodily systems could be an indicator of the presence of myeloma cell growth. Other potential myeloma symptoms can include weight loss, weakness or numbness of the legs, and kidney failure. Hypercalcemia, a condition featuring high levels of calcium in the blood, is sometimes linked to myeloma. High calcium levels could cause related symptoms such as nausea, frequent thirst or urination, loss of appetite, constipation, or mental confusion.

Occasionally, myeloma is discovered in its early stages, when there are no myeloma symptoms present. This occurs during blood or urine testing being performed in relation to a different medical condition. The initial diagnosis of myeloma might be based on the presence of monoclonal proteins in the urine or blood that are created by myeloma cells. Further testing to definitively diagnose myeloma might include bone X-rays or a more advanced form of bone scan such as an MRI, CT scan, or PET scan to assess the condition of the bones. A bone marrow biopsy might also be recommended.

For asymptomatic cases, doctors might recommend continued monitoring rather than aggressive treatment. Myeloma cannot be cured; the intent of treatment is to control myeloma symptoms and attempt to slow the growth of new myeloma cells. Treatment options range from chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the use of medications for controlling anemia or immune system response.

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    • Lab testing or bone scans may be required to identify asymptomatic myeloma.
      By: Rob Byron
      Lab testing or bone scans may be required to identify asymptomatic myeloma.