Executive Director at Myeloma Canada
Multiple myeloma, or myeloma, is the 2nd most common form of blood cancer. Nine new Canadians are diagnosed with myeloma every day, yet sadly, it remains relatively unknown, and without a cure.
Most people have never heard of myeloma. Often confused with melanoma (skin cancer), an estimated 3,400 Canadians were diagnosed with myeloma in 2020 alone1, and an estimated 7,460 currently live with disease1…and the numbers are increasing. Why? Mainly because there have been tremendous advancements in diagnosis and treatment so people with myeloma are living longer, with a better quality of life, than ever before. Nonetheless, myeloma is still responsible for more than 1,600 deaths annually1.
Myeloma, the 2nd most common blood cancer, is associated with the abnormal behaviour and uncontrolled growth of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow. When plasma cells are healthy, they help fight infection by making antibodies. In people with myeloma, these plasma cells (myeloma cells) ‘crowd out’ healthy blood cells in the bone marrow and overproduce an antibody called an M-protein. This can affect different parts of the body and cause various health-related complications such as fatigue, kidney issues, anemia, bone pain, and recurrent infections.
When thinking of myeloma symptoms, think CRAB: elevated Calcium, Renal (kidney) complications, Anemia, Bone fractures:
When it comes to your health, trust your instincts
Every person is unique, and so is their experience with myeloma. From the onset, some people may have more classic symptoms of bone pain and extreme fatigue, while others may not at all. What matters is that you remain vigilant about your health and report any changes to your healthcare professional, no matter how inconsequential they may seem.
No one knows you, and the way you feel, better than you. If you’re not feeling right, if something seems out of whack, if you’re more tired than usual or having serious aches and pains, don’t wait, especially during the pandemic…cancer doesn’t, and neither should you! Since the pandemic started, oncologists estimate cancer diagnoses are down as much as 25 percent, with many people receiving diagnoses in later stages because they’ve delayed consulting their physicians. If you don’t feel well, if you don’t improve, if your tests are inconclusive, push for more. Ask to see a specialist. Don’t settle until you feel satisfied with your answers.
You’re not alone
If you or a loved one has received a myeloma diagnosis, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Reach out to organizations like Myeloma Canada. Myeloma Canada is the country’s only national charitable organization exclusively devoted to helping improve the lives of Canadians impacted by myeloma. The organization was created by, and for, Canadians affected by myeloma – patients, caregivers and healthcare providers – and has the reliable resources, information, tools and support you need to help you understand, cope and manage every phase of the disease, whether newly diagnosed, in remission, or relapse. The organization also works with industry partners, clinicians, researchers and governments to ensure that all voices are heard for drug access and availability, and supports research toward finding a cure.
Thanks to great strides in treatment therapies, clinical trials and research, people with myeloma are enjoying longer and better lives. Today, there is hope where there once was uncertainty. We still have a long way to go, but the future is looking brighter than ever.
To learn more about myeloma, or to donate, visit the Myeloma Canada website: myeloma.ca or call, toll-free: 1-888-798-5771. Visit Myeloma Canada’s YouTube channel for a full library of informational and patient journey videos.
1 Canadian Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.ca/en/caner-information/cancer-type/multiple-myeloma/statistics/?region=on