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Physicians Need To Look Past Age Related Probabilities When Diagnosing Cancer

Home/Physicians Need To Look Past Age Related Probabilities When Diagnosing Cancer

Physicians Need To Look Past Age Related Probabilities When Diagnosing Cancer

Did you happen to see this article earlier in the week on CancerCare.Com? Very, very basic. Skim if you like and I will comment on the back end:

9 Common Symptoms of Myeloma
By Krisha McCoy, MS
Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD

While there are some telltale signs associated with multiple myeloma, many symptoms are vague and may appear to be caused by another disease. And for many individuals, there are no symptoms at all. Knowing the warning signs can help you decide when to call your doctor.

Common Multiple Myeloma Symptoms

Bone pain. Since multiple myeloma tumors can activate osteoclasts (cells that break down bone) and block osteoblasts (cells that build bone), bones may become weak and painful in people with myeloma. Pain can occur in any bone, but the backbone, hip bones, and skull are the most likely to cause pain. Broken bones. Weaknesses in bones in people with multiple myeloma make them more susceptible to breaking a bone. Anemia. Anemia, or a low level of red blood cells, is common in people with myeloma. People with anemia may experience difficulty exercising, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Leukopenia. Leukopenia, which is a low level of white blood cells, is also common in people with multiple myeloma. Leukopenia weakens the immune system and puts you at increased risk of infections (pneumonia, for example). Thrombocytopenia. A reduction in blood platelet counts, a condition known as thrombocytopenia, may occur in people with multiple myeloma. With thrombocytopenia, serious bleeding can occur from even minor injuries, such as a cut, scrape, or bruise. Compressed nerves. Since weakened spinal bones can compress certain nerves, people with multiple myeloma may experience severe pain, numbness, or muscle weakness. This is a medical emergency, so contact your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of compressed nerves. Hypercalcemia. Weakened bones release calcium into the bloodstream, resulting in a condition known as hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood). This can lead to symptoms such as weakness, mental confusion, thirst, loss of appetite, fatigue, and constipation. This condition can eventually lead to coma if it is not treated. Other nervous system problems. People with multiple myeloma may experience weakness, numbness, mental confusion, and stroke-like symptoms due to nerve damage and thickening of the blood caused by myeloma proteins. Kidney damage. Myeloma proteins can damage the kidneys’ ability to remove excess salt, fluid, and body waste, which can lead to leg swelling and weakness. What to Do if You Experience Myeloma Symptoms

These symptoms are usually not the result of multiple myeloma. They may be due to less serious conditions. But people who experience these symptoms should see their medical team as soon as possible so they can determine the cause of the symptoms, as well as the best way to treat them.

The most common way of diagnosing myeloma is by a chance finding based on a complaint of a symptom, according to Guido Tricot, MD, PhD, director of the Utah Blood and Marrow Transplant and Myeloma Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. “There are two ways we typically get to the diagnosis of myeloma,” Dr. Tricot says. “One is when a patient develops acute pain when they have never had back pain and all at once get severe acute back pain. And the second is when people who have routine blood screens each year find out that their total protein is elevated and abnormal myeloma protein is eventually found.” So if you believe you have symptoms that could suggest myeloma, it is important to talk with your doctor.

I spoke at length is afternoon with a woman from South Carolina who’s college-age son was diagnosed with myeloma in May. An issue I have with lists like the one above is they are age biased. I was only 51 when I was diagnosed. Active, healthy–no one was looking for myeloma. Subsequently I had lots of bone involvement and damage before the correct diagnosis was made. This woman’s son was also diagnosed late because of his young age. I hate when medical professionals dismiss the possibility of a certain diagnosis because a person is too young or old. “You are too young to have prostate cancer, or breast cancer, or colon cancer, or multiple myeloma.” Physicians can mis-diagnose by relying on age related probabilities, don’t you think?
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat