Prevalence of symptoms in patients with multiple myeloma: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Haematol. 2016 Nov;97(5):416-429. doi: 10.1111/ejh.12790. Epub 2016 Sep 6.


Objectives: Multiple myeloma (MM) is an incurable haematological disease. Due to novel agents, overall survival has improved in this group, yet there are no systematic reviews to understand the symptom profiles resulting from disease and treatment-related toxicities. We aimed to synthesise data on the prevalence of symptoms in patients with MM.

Methods: A systematic database and grey literature search were conducted in six databases. Random-effects meta-analysis with inverse variance weighting to pool prevalence data was performed.

Results: Thirty-six studies were included of which 34 studies (N = 3023) provided data for meta-analysis. Twenty-seven distinct symptoms were reported, with the majority of studies focusing on pain (n = 27), fatigue (n = 19) and problems with functioning (n = 15). The most prevalent symptoms were fatigue (98.8%, 95% CI 98.1-99.2%), pain (73%, 39.9-91.7), constipation (65.2%, 22.9-92.2) and tingling in the hands/feet with 53.4% (0.4-99.7). The most common problems were decreased physical functioning (98.9%, 98.2-99.3), decreased cognitive functioning (80.2%, 40-96.1) and financial difficulties (78.4%, 39.1-95.4). These problems were present in newly diagnosed to advanced disease stage.

Conclusions: Optimal quality of life and good symptom management in this incurable disease can only be achieved by routinely assessing symptoms throughout the disease trajectory.

Keywords: multiple myeloma; prevalence; signs and symptoms; symptom burden; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Multiple Myeloma / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Myeloma / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Symptom Assessment*