Multiple myeloma is a rare type of cancer that leads to accumulating cancer cells in the bone marrow. It alters the blood’s plasma cells and lowers the body’s production of disease-fighting antibodies, thus causing a wide range of symptoms in the process. However, the disease often has no signs in its early stages, making it challenging to identify. Therefore, here are the silent signs of multiple myeloma to look out for:
Healthy blood cells allow the body to fight disease and infections easily. However, with the increase of cancerous cells in the body, it has to work much harder to fight infections, causing fatigue and weakness.
Since myeloma affects the bone marrow, it can affect the process of bone cell formation, which can lead to problems like bone pain and brittle or broken bones.
The breakdown of bone in the body leads to a rise in calcium levels, which can lead to several complications like increased thirst and urination, constipation, confusion, and kidney damage.
Low blood counts
The multiplication of myeloma cells in the body leads to crowding out healthy blood cells. This reduces the occurrence of red blood cells (anemia) and white blood cells (leukopenia), making one more susceptible to infections.
Myeloma negatively impacts the occurrence of antibodies, making it challenging to fight infection-causing microbes.
Numbness, tingling, or burning sensation in hands and feet
Myeloma cells produce an abnormal antibody called monoclonal immunoglobulin, or the M-protein. This protein is toxic to nerves and can cause a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, which leads to numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation in the hands and feet.
High levels of M-protein in the body can cause blood to thicken, giving rise to symptoms like abnormal bleeding, headaches, chest pain, decreased alertness, or shortness of breath.
Multiple myeloma is diagnosed when there is a plasma cell tumor or at least 10 percent of plasma cells in the bone marrow. It is along with the presence of one or more symptoms like high blood calcium cells, poor kidney function, anemia, tumors with holes in the bones, 60 percent or more plasma cells in the bone marrow, and increased levels of light chains. In addition, doctors may order several tests like CT scans, MRIs, bone X-rays, or lab tests to confirm the presence and spread of multiple myeloma before starting treatment.