Know About Multiple Myeloma Symptoms And Prognosis
Multiple myeloma is relatively rare compared to other cancers. It is a blood cancer that affects the bone marrow. In the upcoming content, you will read some basic information such as myeloma cancer definition, why multiple myeloma symptoms occur and the prognosis of this disorder.
What is multiple myeloma?
Myeloma is a blood cancer. It affects the type of white blood cells called plasma cells. Plasma cells are an essential part of the immune system. They produce antibodies that fight infections in your body.
Too many plasma cells produced in the bone marrow decreases the space for red blood cells and white blood cells and weakens the bones. Multiple places of bone marrow can get affected, and that leads to multiple myeloma.
Cancerous plasma cells in multiple myeloma produce abnormal antibodies called M-protein. It can make the blood thick and form blood clots. Other antibodies in the body will become low and make the person more prone to infections. M proteins can accumulate in blood and urine and can damage kidneys and other organs.
Usually, the patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma are 65 years and older. Men are more likely to develop this disorder than women.
Multiple myeloma symptoms:
In the beginning, the multiple myeloma does not cause any symptoms. But when cancer develops, symptoms that can occur are:
- Bone pain: Bone pain is a common symptom that occurs in any bone. It often occurs in the back, skull and hips. The pain can be milder or severe based on the stage of multiple myeloma and usually worsens when a person moves.
- Loss of appetite & weight loss: High blood levels of calcium can occur as a result of bone breakdown. It will cause a loss of appetite. These multiple myeloma symptoms can also occur as a result of kidney damage caused by abnormal antibodies.
- Fatigue: Multiple myeloma can cause the reduction in the supply of red blood cells. Due to this, tissues receive decreased oxygen and lead to fatigue. Besides, frequent infections in multiple myeloma can also lead to fatigue.
- Confusion: Mental confusion in multiple myeloma can be caused due to various reasons. Some of them are hyperviscosity of the blood (blood becomes thick leading to slower blood flow to the brain), kidney disease (which is common in multiple myeloma patients) and hypercalcemia (excess release of calcium in body fluids due to bone resorption).
- Infections: Too many abnormal plasma cells present crowd out the white blood cells. It makes the body open to infections. The common infections occurring in multiple myeloma patients are bladder, skin and respiratory tract infections. Patients with this disorder are more susceptible to frequent infections.
- Nausea and vomiting: The imbalance in the blood chemicals, decreased kidney function and treatment can cause these multiple myeloma symptoms.
- Weakness or numbness in legs: If bone lesions occur in the spine, it can cause nerve compressions. It can cause numbness and muscle weakness, often in the legs. Thickening of blood can also cause weakness on one side of the body.
- Excessive thirst: High blood calcium levels can cause extreme thirst.
- Bone fractures: Cancerous plasma cells can invade the outer layers of the bone. This weakened bone is more likely to break from a minor injury or stress. Around 85 % of the patients have some bone damage.
Multiple myeloma prognosis:
If you are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, you may want to know about your prognosis, the judgement on the development of a disorder in future. It helps predict the chance of recovery.
The multiple myeloma prognosis depends on the stage of the disorder when you are diagnosed, results of specific tests, your age, symptoms and body profile.
Your prognosis may change over time. For example, if your body responds well to the treatment, it will give you a favourable prognosis.
Here are some factors helpful in measuring multiple myeloma prognosis:
- Beta-2-microglobulin (beta-2-M) is a protein. It is a powerful prognostic factor in multiple myeloma. When more cancerous cells are present and kidney damage has occurred, this protein level is higher in multiple myeloma patients. Values less than 3.5mg/mL are considered a good prognostic factor.
- Albumin- Higher levels of the protein albumin indicate a better multiple myeloma prognosis.
- Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)- Elevated LDH (enzyme) levels is related to high disease aggressiveness and faster growth of cancer cells. Values less than 190U/L indicate a favourable prognosis.
- Genetic abnormalities in cancer cells indicates a poor multiple myeloma prognosis. The FISH test can find most chromosomal changes.
- Plasma cell labelling index is a test which tells how fast the cancer cells are growing using bone marrow samples. It is helpful in predicting the recovery.
- Age - Younger people with multiple myeloma are likely to live longer than old people.
- Health status- Poorly managed health conditions such as heart disorders or diabetes in multiple myeloma patients indicate a poor multiple myeloma prognosis.
- Kidney condition- When kidney function is poor, the chemical called creatinine rises in the blood and predicts a poor chance of recovery.
Increase the survival by early diagnosis:
Even though multiple myeloma is not considered a curable disease, it’s very treatable. Therapies can control the disorder or delay its return. The doctor will consider aspects of the cancer or a characteristic of the person when making a prognosis. People diagnosed at an earlier stage may live longer.
The most recent statistics from the year 2010-2016 shows that the relative survival of multiple myeloma patients was 53.9% which means that approximately 54 out of 100 people were living for five years following their diagnosis. It was just 34.6% in the previous years. The trend for multiple myeloma survival is improving due to new, effective therapies to treat myeloma.