Risks of Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the plasma cells found in the blood. These cells are formed in the bone marrow. As the disease process continues, the patient becomes at-risk for several complications. Most of these complications can be successfully treated. Multiple myeloma disproportionally affects the elderly, who often have more difficulty dealing with complications.

Bone Fractures

Multiple myeloma cells cause certain bone cells to destroy bone at a rate higher than the cells creating new bone are functioning. This leads to bone fractures. Serious complications include dangerous falls as fractures occur and paralysis due to fractures in the spine. Doctors often prescribe drugs that assist in the prevention of bone loss. Patients at high-risk of fractures may also be given orthopedic devices to help prevent them. Some patients are encouraged to walk or safely exercise to help prevent bone loss.

Severe Pain

Severe pain can develop in the bones of patients with myeloma. This can be due to small fractures or it can be the result of clumping of myeloma cells. Medications such as narcotics and radiation treatment are common therapeutics to treat pain from multiple myeloma.

Anemia

As the bone marrow produces more cancerous myeloma cells, it often makes fewer red blood cells. This can result in anemia. Complications of anemia include fainting, fatigue and weakness. Blood transfusions and medications can be given to treat anemia.

Infections

The National Cancer Institute explains that another risk of multiple myeloma is serious infection. In fact, many with the disease succumb to pneumonia. Skin infections, shingles and urinary tract infections may be worse than usual and last much longer. Antibiotics and antivirals may be ordered to treat these infections. Treatment to improve the function of the immune system may also be prescribed.

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure poses a serious risk for myeloma patients. The kidneys can become compromised by the calcium lost as the bones weaken. They can also be harmed by the abnormal proteins created by myeloma cells. Kidney damage is often treated by a specialized diet. Kidney failure may be so severe that dialysis is required.

Hypercalcemia

Hypercalcemia, or too much calcium in the blood, is the aftereffect of bone loss. This can lead to confusion, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, restlessness and dehydration. Medications are available to lower the calcium level. Some patients are told to drink a lot of water to help keep the calcium level but that recommendation is dependent on kidney status.

Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis occurs when the abnormal proteins created by the myeloma cells build up in the body’s tissues. The effects vary depending on the site of the buildup. Common effects include chest pain, difficulty breathing and swollen legs and feet. Medications are available to treat amyloidosis.

About this Author

Lucy Boyd is a registered nurse who graduated summa cum laude from the University of the State of New York – Regents College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2000. A professional writer since 2007, Boyd is the author of two medical books. Trade magazines such as “PI Magazine” call on her to create feature articles explaining psychiatric and medical issues.