Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Multiple Myeloma

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 6/2013
Symptoms and Signs

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

People with multiple myeloma may experience the following symptoms and signs. Sometimes, people with multiple myeloma do not show any of these symptoms. For people with myeloma who have no symptoms, their cancer may be discovered by a blood test performed for some other reason, such as at an annual physical. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.

  • Anemia is a low level of red blood cells, which happens when myeloma plasma cells crowd out healthy red blood cells.
  • Fatigue is usually caused by anemia and occurs in most people with myeloma.
  • Bone pain, a common symptom, is caused by local bone damage and osteoporosis (general thinning of the bone), which makes the bone more likely to break. The back or ribs are the most common sites of bone pain, but any bone can be affected. Pain is usually worse with movement and at night. If cancer is in the spine, the vertebrae (individual bones that make up the spine) can collapse (known as a compression fracture) and sometimes pinch the nerve, causing pain. In advanced multiple myeloma, a patient may lose inches from his or her height due to compressed vertebrae.
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Weight loss, nausea, thirst, muscle weakness, and mental confusion symptoms are related to kidney failure, hypercalcemia (high calcium levels in the blood), or other imbalances in blood chemicals.
  • Hypercalcemia, resulting in symptoms of drowsiness, constipation, and kidney damage
  • Infections, especially of the upper respiratory tract and lungs
  • Blood clots, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, bruising, and hazy vision caused by hyperviscosity (thickened blood)

Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing, if any, to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

Choose “Next” (below, right) to continue reading this guide to learn about what tests and scans you may have to learn more about the cause of your symptoms. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

© 2005-2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.

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