Multiple Myeloma –  Who May Just Save Your Life?  It Is Your Family Doctor!

We know that 1 in 5  multiple myeloma patients die in the first 2 months, 1 in 4 in the first year, so what could possibly be the reason?  Usually a MM patient will have symptoms, which will send them to their family doctor.  So why on earth do patients end up going to a hematologist/oncologist with advanced stages of this disease? I do not think that it is lack of insurance, but mostly because the average age is 70 years old and most people will have Medicare, and now ACA (Affordable Care Act) will help those who are younger.  Could it be that some patients refuse to see a doctor until they have let their disease progress too far?  I hope not. This is the Macho or Martyr approach to health care.   So why do we continue to have the misdiagnosis, slow diagnosis, and lack of diagnosis?  The SAD fact is that the lack of knowledge about multiple myeloma is not only in the general population, but also in the front line of health care or the family practitioner.  

PictureOnly some family doctors get Myeloma right the first time!!

With 97% of people having never heard of Multiple Myeloma, it may leave us to think that the average Family Practice doctor may have little to no understanding of myeloma and its symptoms.  A recent article by the Lancet exposed this in detail.  

“A study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, found that patients with breast, melanoma, testicular and endometrial cancers are more likely to be referred to a specialist after just one or two consultations.   However, patients with some less common cancers such as multiple myeloma, pancreatic, stomach and ovarian cancer, as well as patients with lung and colon cancers and lymphomas are more likely to require three or more visits to their family doctor before they are referred to a hospital specialist. Patients with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that is notoriously difficult to diagnose since it mimics many other conditions, are 18 times more likely to require three or more pre-referral consultations compared with patients with breast cancer.” – To see more CLICK HERE.  

As far as how this can delay a diagnosis and make it a far more advanced disease is highlighted in an article in  BMC Hematology.  “The time from symptom onset to diagnosis  varied markedly by diagnosis: acute myeloid leukemia being 41 days (Interquartile range (IQR) 17–85), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma 98 days (IQR 53–192) and myeloma 163 days (IQR 84–306).” The interquartile range (IQR), also called the midspread or middle fifty, is a measure of statistical dispersion.  This means that the middle 50% of patients required between 84 and 306 days to diagnose from symptom onset, but it also tells me that 25% of patients are diagnosed more than 306 days after going to the family practitioner for the first time.  To view the entire article CLICK HERE.  This has not fallen on deaf ears, but not the right ears.  Lawyers are starting to see the possible malpractice money in this new information, and you can see an example if your CLICK HERE.

From the American Cancer Society web site I found a summary which may just help to educate the yet to be diagnosed and their familiy doctor..  It outlines the symptoms, a few of which are anemia, frequent infections, nerve tingling and damage, bleeding that will not stop, bone breaks in the spine and ribs, confusion, and kidney damage.  A standard blood test can be an indicator of possible trouble, even if you show no symptoms.  Low red blood cell count, low platelets, high calcium, low white blood cell counts, excess protein in the blood, and more depending on the number of variables tested.  A better more extensive list of symptoms and the many diagnostic tests are available at the American Cancer Society site which you can read if you CLICK HERE. So we know what tests and measurements should be red flags for your family doctor to pursue additional testing or recommend seeing a hematologist/oncologist.  

Because the above data is average, there are some family doctors who outperform these averages.  My family doctor is  Dr. Arnold Fong of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL,  and based on this published data, I owe him my life.  He was an exceptional exception and had me diagnosed in just 7 days.  Thank You Dr. Fong, and I hope that everyone can find their Dr. Fong.

We need to get this information out to the general public and to your family doctor. One way for YOU to help with Myeloma awareness is by getting this message out to your facebook, twitter or other social media contacts and give it to your family doctor.  You may not know someone with myeloma symptoms but your contacts might, and you may just help to SAVE LIFE!  Just Click the Twitter and Facebook icons at the end of this post. The United Kingdom’s National Institue of Health  has put out a pamphlet for family doctors, just CLICK HERE.

Good luck and may God Bless your Cancer Journey.   For more information on multiple myeloma survival rates and treatments CLICK HERE and you can follow me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/grpetersen1