Often overlooked, monitoring bone health is key for patients with blood cancer
(BPT) - An aching back is painful and inconvenient for anyone, but for people living with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, pain in the back and ribs can signal that the cancer has spread to their bones.
Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in the U.S., with an estimated 70,000 adult Americans living with the disease and another 21,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed in 2012. According to Dr. James Berenson, medical and scientific director at the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research in Hollywood, Calif., “Many people with cancer focus on questions about the cancer itself, so they often don’t think to ask how the rest of their body will be affected. This is especially important for people with multiple myeloma, which goes undiagnosed until the disease has spread to the bone in up to 95 percent of cases.”
Once the disease has spread, patients will likely have bone pain in the back or ribs due to bone lesions, or growths that form on the bone, which may cause difficulty walking. Additionally, patients’ bones may easily break or they may experience loss of appetite, nausea, thirst, fatigue, weakness or numbness. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for people to differentiate bone pain from other conditions such as arthritis or ordinary lower back pain, so people with multiple myeloma should also be aware of other signs that could indicate multiple myeloma has spread to the bones. In all, more than 60 percent of people with multiple myeloma will have bone lesions leading to a skeletal-related event, such as pathologic fracture (a fracture which is caused by cancer on or in the bone), radiation or surgery to bone, or spinal cord compression.
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