What Are the Early Signs of Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a relatively uncommon type of cancer that develops in bone marrow. As cancerous plasma cells (myeloma cells) form and build up within the marrow, they can crowd out healthy blood cells. Additionally, multiple myeloma can increase the activity of cells that break down bone (osteoclasts) and decrease the activity of cells that form new bone (osteoblasts). As a result, the breakdown of existing bone can eventually outpace the formation of new bone.

Symptoms and conditions caused by multiple myeloma

Usually, multiple myeloma symptoms develop gradually over time and may not become apparent until the condition progresses to an advanced stage. The early signs, which can vary among individuals, include:

  • Bone pain (particularly in the spine and ribs)
  • Excessive bruising or bleeding
  • Unexplained bone fractures (especially in the spinal vertebrae)
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • A general feeling of weakness
  • Recurrent infections
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Unintended weight loss

In addition to these symptoms, multiple myeloma can cause one or more concurrent medical conditions. These include anemia (low red blood cell count), leukopenia (low white blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count), hypercalcemia (high levels of blood calcium), renal failure (the kidneys are unable to filter the proteins secreted by malignant plasma cells) and spinal nerve compression (fractured vertebrae press on the spinal cord).

If you would like to discuss your multiple myeloma symptoms with an oncologist in the Malignant Hematology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. In addition to bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, our physicians utilize a full range of advanced diagnostic techniques, and we welcome patients with or without referrals.