Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that forms in plasma cells, which are located in the bone marrow. When healthy plasma cells change and grow out of control, it can result in multiple bone lesions, hence the name “multiple myeloma.”
The causes of multiple myeloma are unknown. Some people experience symptoms, while others experience no symptoms at all. Still, knowing what to look for and what could increase your risk can help catch multiple myeloma as early as possible, which makes it easier to treat.
If you have any of the following, you are at an increased risk of developing multiple myeloma:
Other, less specific risk factors include:
Some people with several risk factors may never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. It’s smart to know your risk factors in case you want to talk about them with your doctor or make more informed lifestyle and healthcare choices.
According to the International Myeloma Foundation, remembering the CRAB acronym can help make it easier to recognize the four most common signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma:
As bones become damaged, they can release calcium into the bloodstream. This condition of high calcium levels, called hypercalcemia, can result in symptoms such as mental confusion, constipation, dehydration, extreme thirst, weakness, fatigue, and renal or kidney damage.
When myeloma cells produce abnormal monoclonal proteins and release them into the bloodstream, they can pass into the urine, resulting in kidney damage. This causes symptoms including fatigue, mental confusion, and sluggish circulation.
Anemia is a reduced number of red blood cells. This can lead to symptoms including weakness, a reduced ability to exercise, rapid heartbeat, swelling in legs, headache, chills, shortness of breath, changes in appetite, and dizziness.
Myeloma cells activate osteoclast cells, which destroy the bone. They also block osteoblast cells, which repair damaged bone. This can lead to bone problems, such as swelling or tenderness in the limbs, bone pain, bone thinning (osteoporosis), and bone fractures that aren’t associated with a significant injury. In some cases, nerve or spinal cord damage may occur.
If you have concerns about your risk factors or are experiencing symptoms like the ones above, please consult your doctor. Your doctor can discuss what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of your symptoms to make a diagnosis. Learn more about how doctors detect and diagnose multiple myeloma.