Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the white blood cells. The plasma cell helps protect the body by fighting against infections and creating antibodies. Multiple myeloma causes the cancer cells to grow and destroy healthy blood cells. Doctors don’t know what causes this cancer but there are factors that could put one at risk for developing this disease. Being 60 years and older, men, of African American ethnicity, and having a family history of multiple myeloma are speculated to increase the risk.
Treatments of this cancer are chemotherapy, radiation, corticosteroid, radiation and stem cell transplant. The following are common symptoms of multiple myeloma, although many patients don’t display any symptoms at all in the early stages:
1. High blood levels of calcium
Hypercalcemia can cause many different symptoms. They include feeling weak, drowsy, dehydration, extreme thirst, kidney problems and kidney failure, loss of appetite and confusion.
2. Kidney problems
Myeloma protein can significantly damage the kidneys. The kidneys will eventually lose the ability to rid itself of toxins and this can lead to symptoms of itching, leg swelling and shortness of breath.
People suffering from myeloma are very likely to get infections. Pneumonia is a very common one that people with myeloma get. Infections in people with this cancer don’t always respond to treatment immediately so they are likely to remain sick longer than most people.
4. Low blood counts
It is a common sign for people with multiple myeloma to have a shortage of red and white blood cells. This can cause symptoms of anemia, thrombocytopenia and leukopenia.
Some people experience hyperviscosity when large amounts of myeloma protein causes the blood to thicken. Symptoms include dizziness, confusion, weakness on one side of the body and slurred speech.
6. Bone problems
Bone pain most often in the hips, back and skull, bone weakness and broken bones are all symptoms of multiple myeloma.
7. Nervous system
Spinal cord compression is usually a result of the cancer weakening the bones in the spine therefore collapsing and pressing on the nerves. Signs of spinal cord compression are severe back pain, weakness in the legs and numbness in the legs.
8. Nerve damage
The proteins that are produced by myeloma cells can lead to nerve damage since these proteins are toxic. This can cause numbness and weakness of the nerves as well as a pins and needles sensation.
When a person is healthy, it’s easy for the body to fight against germs and diseases. The body of a person who is sick with cancer has to work a lot harder making the person feel very weak and fatigued.