Myeloma: Patient Education

Cancer Facts

According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

  • The median age at diagnosis is 70 years. Myeloma rarely occurs in people under age 45.
  • For the years 2003 to 2007, the incidence rate in men (7.1 per 100,000) was 58 percent higher than for women (4.5 per 100,000).
  • African Americans have a much higher incidence rate of myeloma (11.7 per 100,000) than those of European descent (5.2 per 100,000).
  • The five-year relative survival rate has increased from 12 percent in 1960 to 1963 for whites to 38.5 percent from 1999 to 2006 for all races and ethnicities.

Overview

Myeloma is cancer of the antibody-making plasma cells in your bone marrow.  If the cancer affects multiple sites in your body, it’s called multiple myeloma.

Plasma cells help your body fight infection by producing proteins called antibodies. In multiple myeloma, plasma cells grow out of control in your bone marrow and form tumors in the areas of solid bone. These antibodies can collect in your blood and urine and cause damage to your kidneys and other organs.

The growth of these bone tumors makes it harder for the bone marrow to make healthy blood cells and platelets, often resulting in bone damage and pain.

Myeloma is an incurable disease.

Two Types of Myeloma

Asymptomatic or Smoldering Myeloma

  • Progresses slowly
  • Causes no symptoms

Symptomatic Myeloma

  • May progress more rapidly
  • Causes a number of significant problems for your body
  • These difficulties go by the mnemonic CRAB

CRAB: Signs & Symptoms of Symptomatic Myeloma

C - Calcium

  • Calcium may be leached from your bones into your bloodstream.
  • Calcium level in your blood will rise.
  • You’ll become constipated.
  • You won’t be able to think straight.

R - Renal (or Kidneys)

  • Antibodies can harm your kidneys.
  • Excess calcium can harm your kidneys.
  • Your kidneys often fail.

A - Anemia

  • Antibody-making cells directly or indirectly slow down red blood cell production.
  • Anemia is a very common result of myeloma.

B - Bones

  • Calcium leached from bones weakens your bones.
  • Your bones often crack and break.
  • Bone pain and injury is common with myeloma.

Myeloma in most cases affects older adults. The average age of diagnosis is 70.

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