What Causes Smoldering Myeloma? Symptoms And How To Diagnose It

Smoldering myeloma is a variant of myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer. It is the plasma cells in the bone marrow which are affected. They produce certain specific type of protein (monoclonal protein) in abundance than required. The disease progresses slowly and does not manifest any symptoms or any damage in its early phase as compared to other types of myeloma.

People correlate it as a precursor state of multiple myeloma. Since there are no symptoms, smoldering myeloma is found by chance while performing blood tests for some other unrelated conditions.

Once detected, doctors generally do not treat the condition but they keep a close monitoring on the patient with regular blood tests as the disease may progress to a more serious condition called multiple myeloma.

Causes Of Smoldering Myeloma

The exact cause of smoldering myeloma is not known. However several factors are known that play a role in development of smoldering myeloma.

  • Age: Smoldering myeloma generally develops with growing age. Most people may develop the disease after the age of 65 years. The disease is rare in young people.
  • Gender: The disease is seen more in men than in women.
  • Race: It is more observed in African Americans than in people of Asian origin. The reason for this racial discrimination is not well understood.
  • Family history: The risk increases if any family member is suffering from multiple myeloma.
  • Exposure to environmental factors such as chemical and virus is also suspected to trigger this latent form of myeloma.
  • Being obese is also responsible for triggering the condition.

Smoldering Myeloma Symptoms

Patients with smoldering myeloma are asymptomatic. This means, unlike other forms of myeloma, they do not produce any symptoms. The M protein level is slightly greater than 3gm% and marrow contains more than 10% of plasma cells.

The patient may not experience anemia, renal insufficiency, high calcium level or any bony lesions as it is observed in multiple myeloma. Some patients may feel weakness due to mild anemia. They may complain of mild bone pains too.

These patients do not require any treatment till the disease progresses further. About one third of patients with smoldering myeloma may develop multiple myeloma within 5 years.

How Is Smoldering Myeloma Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of smoldering myeloma is difficult. It is mostly found accidentally while doing routine blood tests and urine tests for some other diseases.

Patient may have slightly low level of hemoglobin. There is elevation of specific type of protein in urine and blood. This protein is called M (monoclonal) protein.

The doctor then calls the patient for regular follow up and check up every three months or six months. This is mainly done to observe further progression of the disease. The tests may include bone marrow biopsy, blood tests, urine tests, MRI and bone scanning.

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