Complication: Anemia

Anemia is a multiple myeloma complication that affects over 60% of patients when they are initially diagnosed. Anemia is a condition where the number of red blood cells in the body is decreased. Anemia can be caused by a loss of red blood cells due to excessive bleeding, decreased production of red blood cells by the bone marrow, increased red blood cell destruction by the body, or due to a combination of these factors.

Anemia is a significant problem in multiple myeloma. A substantial portion of patients are anemic at diagnosis and most remaining patients become anemic during the course of their disease. Anemia is caused by both the cancer cells as well as by certain myeloma treatments. However, it often improves in patients who achieve a complete remission. Treatment for anemia can be complex as it may be caused by both multiple myeloma and the various treatment therapies for myeloma.

Anemia is typically defined as having a hemoglobin (Hb) level below normal. Hemoglobin is the substance found within red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues in the body. Normal hemoglobin levels are:

12 to 16 g/dL for women
14 to 18 g/dL for men

Severity of Anemia  Hemoglobin Level (g/dL)
Mild

10 or more

Moderate

8-9.9

Severe

6.5-7.9

Life-Threatening

Less than 6.5