Early symptoms of multiple myeloma are often similar to other conditions.

Multiple myeloma, also called myeloma, is cancer. It can be difficult to detect early because the early symptoms could be symptoms of many kinds of illnesses.

Many cases of multiple myeloma are found during a routine blood test.

Here are some important things you should know about multiple myeloma.

Most symptoms of multiple myeloma become more noticeable in later stages of the disease.

Multiple myeloma begins in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is where blood cells are made, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. As the disease becomes more advanced, these symptoms are possible:

  • Bone disease: Tiny fractures make bones weak and easier to break and cause pain in the lower back, pelvis, ribs, and skull.
  • Hypercalcemia: A buildup of calcium in the blood can cause kidney damage, fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, and confusion.
  • Anemia: A lack of growth of red blood cells causes extreme tiredness, weakness, and dizziness.
  • Infections: A reduction in white blood cells weakens the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight off conditions such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and shingles. 
  • Nervous system complications: Deteriorating bones can irritate nerves, causing severe pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.
  • Spinal cord compression: One of the most severe effects of myeloma is compression of the spinal cord, causing nerve damage.
  • Thickening of the blood: The abnormal proteins produced by myeloma cancer cells can cause a dangerous thickening of the blood that results in bruising, nose bleeds, gastrointestinal bleeding, hazy vision, confusion, numbness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Men are 50 percent more likely to develop multiple myeloma than women.

The cause of multiple myeloma is unknown. Certain factors make you more likely to have it, including:

  • Age: Growing older increases the chances of getting multiple myeloma.
  • Race: Multiple myeloma is twice as common in African Americans than it is in Caucasians. The risk is lowest for Asian Americans.
  • Obesity: People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing multiple myeloma.
  • Plasma disorders like MGUS: Some people with monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance, also called MGUS, may get multiple myeloma.
Research shows Holden’s treatment approach to be among the most effective.

Tandem autologous transplant treatment is two stem cell transplants done within six months of each other. This treatment process, practiced routinely at Holden, leads to remission in about 80 percent of multiple myeloma patients. Many patients live fulfilling lives for 10 years or more after receiving this treatment.

Holden offers tandem autologous transplant treatment for multiple myeloma patients.

Few medical centers in the nation can offer this procedure. As home to Iowa’s only stem cell transplant and cellular therapy program, Holden offers tandem autologous transplant treatment to its multiple myeloma patients, along with:

  • A team-based, personalized approach to cancer care that puts you at the center of a group of multiple myeloma specialists
  • Clinical trials of the most promising new drugs and procedures not yet available on the market
  • Genetic counselors who specialize in cancer to guide you in finding the right genetic tests for your care

Meet our team of specialists.

Patient Education Specialist

  • Paula McCue, MA, RN, OCN

Clinic Nurse

  • Jacque Gingerich, BSN, RN

Clinical Research Associate

  • Megan Chandler, BSN, OCN

Transplant Coordinators

  • Annette Norlands, RN, BSN, BMTCN
  • Stephanie Palmer, BSN, RN

Social Worker

  • Denise Kanne, MSW

Cancer Care Clinics

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

200 Hawkins Drive
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Clinical Cancer Center

21602 Pomerantz Family Pavilion (PFP)
Elevator M, Level 1
Phone: 1-319-356-4200

Cancer Services-Quad Cities

1351 Kimberly Road
Suite 100
Bettendorf, Iowa 52722

University of Iowa Health Care Cancer Services-Quad Cities

Phone: 1-563-355-7733