At the start, there may be no symptoms in multiple myeloma. Myeloma can be difficult to find early. Many patients do not have any symptoms until after the disease has reached an advanced stage. At first, symptoms may appear to be something else. A routine test can show an increased amount of protein in the blood. Then the primary effect might be on the bone. Many clinicians refer to criteria for myeloma as the CRAB criteria.
C = Calcium – as bone is destroyed by myeloma, it can cause the calcium in the blood to rise. This is a condition called hypercalcemia. This can cause symptoms in the body.
R = Renal or Kidneys –excess protein in the blood is filtered through the kidneys, causing them to overwork, and causing kidney damage, eventually leading to kidney failure. Increased calcium can cause a variety of symptoms, including loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle weakness, restlessness, clouded thinking or confusion, increased thirst, increased urination, etc.
A = Anemia – having a low red blood cell count in laboratory test values
B = Bone – bones can be affected in two ways. First, cells may gather to form masses in the bone marrow that may disrupt the structure of surrounding bone. Second, myeloma cells may secrete substances that interfere with bone growth and repair. Damage to the bone may result in soft spots, or osteolytic lesions. These lesions appear as “holes” on a standard X-ray (MMRF). Lesions can weaken the bone, resulting in pain and increasing the risk of fractures. The most commonly affected bones are in the spine, the hips, and the pelvis.
For more information on Multiple Myeloma signs, symptoms, treatment, clinical trials please go to: the National Cancer Institute (NCI and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – www.cancer.gov; the American Cancer Society (ACS) – www.cancer.org; Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) – www.themmrf.orf; and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation (LLS) – www.lls.org.