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Multiple myeloma symptoms

Multiple myeloma is a relatively rare cancer that develops in the bone marrow. As the cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the marrow, other healthy blood cells are crowded out. This can cause several different symptoms, such as infection, anemia and problems with bruising and bleeding.

The myeloma cells also increase the activity of cells called osteoclasts (which break down bone) and decrease the activity of osteoblasts (which form new bone), causing the bones to dissolve at a faster rate than they are formed. This can damage and weaken the bones, causing pain and lesions.

Multiple myeloma symptoms may develop slowly over time. Often, early stage multiple myeloma is asymptomatic (displays no symptoms) and symptoms don’t appear until the disease reaches an advanced stage.

cancer symptoms

Multiple myeloma symptoms

Some signs of multiple myeloma symptoms vary for each individual, some common ones include:

  • Bone pain (often in the back or ribs)
  • Unexplained bone fractures (usually in the spine)
  • Fatigue, feeling of weakness
  • Recurrent infections, fevers
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Increased thirst, urination

Related conditions associated with multiple myeloma

In addition to experiencing the symptoms of multiple myeloma as it progresses, one or more of the following conditions may develop:

  • Low blood counts: In multiple myeloma, malignant cells replace the normal blood-forming cells in the marrow. This can result in anemia (low red blood cell count), which can cause shortness of breath, fatigue or a feeling of weakness; leukopenia (low white blood cell count), which can increase the risk of infections; or thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count), which can cause easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood): As the osteoclasts rapidly dissolve bone tissue, calcium is released into the blood. Hypercalcemia can cause excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea, dehydration and constipation, as well as mental confusion, dizziness or even coma.
  • Kidney problems: The build-up of abnormal antibody proteins and high blood calcium levels from the dissolved bone tissue may lead to kidney problems.
  • Spinal cord compression: Multiple myeloma can cause weakened and/or collapsing bone structures, such as the vertebrae, which can lead to spinal cord compression. Pain, numbness or tingling may be a sign of pressure on the spinal cord, which could lead to paralysis if there is no immediate medical intervention.

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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