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Eur J Cancer. 1991;27(11):1401-5.

Changing clinical presentation of multiple myeloma.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Medicina Interna e Terapia Medica, Universit√† di Pavia, Italy.


We compared the presentation features of three series of patients with multiple myeloma diagnosed between 1960 and 1971 (Kyle R, Mayo Clin Proc, 1975, 50, 29, n = 869), 1972 and 1986 (Clinica Medica, University of Pavia, n = 345) and 1987 and 1990 (Cooperative Group for Study and Treatment of Multiple Myeloma, n = 341). In the most recently diagnosed patients, the percentage of those who had symptoms related to multiple myeloma (i.e. any of bone pain, systemic symptoms, disturbances related to hypercalcemia, neurological involvement and hyperviscosity) was reduced (90 vs. 86 vs. 66%) (P less than 0.001), while the percentage of asymptomatic patients diagnosed by chance was increased (not reported, and 14 vs. 34%). In the most recent series, a lower percentage of spontaneous bone pain (68 vs. 60 vs. 37%, P less than 0.001) paralleled a lower incidence of advanced bone disease (osteolyses and pathological fractures, 60 vs. 64 vs. 34%), and renal failure (serum creatinine greater than 1.2 mg/dl) was also less common (56 vs. 44 vs. 33%, P less than 0.01), at least partially due to a decreased incidence of both hypercalcemia (30 vs. 20 vs. 18%, P less than 0.001) and of hyperuricemia (serum uric acid greater than 7 mg/dl, 47 vs. 32 vs. 26%, P less than 0.01). Systemic symptoms (weakness, infections, fever or weight loss) were reported more seldom by recently diagnosed patients, due to a decreased frequency of anaemia (haemoglobin less than 12 g/dl), leukopenia and thrombocytopenia, as well as of the systemic effects of bone pain and of renal insufficiency. These data indicate that multiple myeloma is diagnosed earlier now than in the past, and this must be taken into account when comparing survival data in treated series.

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