South Lincolnshire CCG is raising awareness of Myeloma during Blood Cancer Awareness Month, September 2019, where the emphasis is about raising awareness of the symptoms of blood cancers which are vague, non-specific and often confused for other illnesses.
Myeloma or multiple myeloma is a type of bone marrow cancer. It often affects many places in the body, which it why it is called multiple myeloma. Commonly affected areas include the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs.
Myeloma does not usually take the form of a lump or tumour. Instead, the myeloma cells divide and expand within the bone marrow, damaging the bones and affecting the production of healthy blood cells. Indeed in the early stages, myeloma may not cause any symptoms. It is often only suspected or diagnosed after a routine blood or urine test. However, myeloma will eventually cause a wide range of problems including:
- A persistent dull ache or specific areas of tenderness in your bones
- Weak bones that break easily
- Tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath
- Repeated infections
- Less commonly bruising and unusual bleeding - such as frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums and heavy periods
If you experience any of the signs associated with myeloma you should make an appointment to see your GP. While they are unlikely to be caused by cancer, it is best to get a proper diagnosis. Your GP will examine you to check for bone tenderness, bleeding, signs of infection, and any other symptoms that suggest you might have myeloma. They may also arrange blood and urine tests that can detect abnormal proteins produced by myeloma cells. If myeloma is suspected, you will be referred to a specialist in blood conditions for further tests and treatment.
Multiple myeloma is an uncommon type of cancer, with around 4,800 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK. It is not known exactly what causes the condition, though it is more common in:
- Adults aged over 60 – most cases are diagnosed at around the age of 70
- Those of Afro-caribbean descent – multiple myeloma is twice as common in those populations compared with white and Asian populations
There is currently no cure for multiple myeloma, but treatment can often help control it for several years. If you have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma you may find it useful to contact a local or national support such as Myeloma UK. The Myeloma UK website also how as more information about how they can help you and signpost you to local support groups.