The caring staff at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center are experts in diagnosing and treating multiple myeloma. Our team includes highly skilled health care professionals to help you manage all aspects of your medical, physical and emotional care. Every patient receives an individualized treatment plan designed for their specific needs.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma?
Signs of multiple myeloma may be difficult to detect. Some patients don’t experience any symptoms in its early stages. As the cancer progresses, symptoms can vary greatly from one person to the next.
Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma
- Bone weakening and fractures
- Bone pain, especially in the middle and/or lower back, rib cage or hips
- Frequent infections such as pneumonia, bladder, kidney, sinusitis, skin and others
- Hypercalcemia – high levels of calcium that may cause thirst, nausea, constipation and confusion
- Kidney damage or renal failure
- Nervous system problems that may cause pain, numbness or weakness
As multiple myeloma advances, it can cause serious problems to your health. Many organs can be affected by multiple myeloma. C-R-A-B is an acronym for the most common symptoms of multiple myeloma.
- C | Calcium: Elevated calcium levels (hypercalcemia) cause a variety of symptoms, including excessive thirst, nausea, constipation, loss of appetite and confusion.
- R | Renal failure: Myeloma cells produce high levels of abnormal proteins in the blood, which can pass through the kidneys and cause damage.
- A | Anemia: Normal bone marrow is replaced by tumor cells, inhibiting red blood cell production. Anemia can cause exhaustion, weakness, mental fatigue and forgetfulness.
- B | Bone lesions: Bone pain, weakened bones and broken bones are all common complications of multiple myeloma.
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. While it doesn’t mean you have multiple myeloma, you could have other serious health problems and need treatment. If you notice changes in your health that worry you, consider making an appointment to talk to a Banner MD Anderson specialist.
Types of Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is not a single disease. While there are two main types, inactive (smoldering) and active, there is a wide variation of subtypes.
- Smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM): A precancerous form of myeloma with usually no symptoms. About 50% of people with SMM convert to multiple myeloma after five years.
- Light chain myeloma: People who make incomplete immunoglobulin known as light chain antibody have light chain myeloma. Only 20% of people with myeloma have this kind.
- Non-secretory myeloma: People with multiple myeloma who don’t make enough M proteins or light chains for it to show on a test.
- Solitary plasmacytoma: A tumor in a bone or other tissue created when plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control. When there is more than one tissue, it’s considered multiple myeloma.
- Extramedullary plasmacytoma: A tumors in soft tissues, such as the throat or sinuses, created when plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control. Up to 30% will become multiple myeloma.
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS): Causes M proteins, abnormal antibodies made by myeloma cells, but no other symptoms. Only 20% of people with MGUS will get active multiple myeloma.
- Immunoglobulin D (IgD) myeloma: Rare, affecting less than 2% of people with myeloma, most often men under 60.
- Immunoglobulin E (IgE) myeloma: Rarest, but aggressive and progresses quickly to plasma cell leukemia or spreads outside the bone marrow.