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I have pneumonia, broken bones and seem shorter. What is wrong?


Dear Doc,

I was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia and a broken forearm. I did not fall. Whilst in the hospital, I was told that my kidneys were not working too well, possibly because of the high doses of medication I was given. An X-ray of my chest also showed that I had a broken collar bone. On reaching home, my wife is taller than me now. What did they do to me in that place?{{more}}


Dear Ernest,

If I were a psychiatrist I would look at this puzzle differently. We at the society see cancers everywhere, we look because we are looking for them; hence we have to entertain the possibility of the chances of a cancer.

There is a rare condition called Multiple Myeloma. This condition generally affects people older than forty, but there can be diagnosis in younger people. It is a condition whereby certain white blood cells and plasma cells are affected. These cells proliferate over their normal limits and though they are plentiful, they don’t have the ability to fight certain infections. What this results in, is the increase in bacterial infections. This can possibly be the reason for your pneumonia.

Persons with Multiple Myeloma experience what are called pathologic fractures. This means that they break bones of the body even without knowing when, or from simple actions like making a big swipe at a mosquito or lifting a child. The reason this happens is because the bones lose their integrity and become very weak. In the advanced stages of the disease, the bones of the body loose much of their structure and X-rays show osteoporosis. X-rays of the skull can show what look like holes in the skull. Due to the damage to the bone structure, affected persons can actually have their height reduced when the spine is affected. This also results in severe bouts of pain and spinal nerve compression, resulting in numbness.

The experience of kidney failure is due to proteins released by the plasma cells that are called “Bence Proteins”. It is the proteins that damage the kidneys when they are excreted in the urine. Your doctor can request a simple test of the urine to help make this diagnosis.

Early diagnosis is imperative, as this condition does not carry a good prognosis. It takes proper evaluation and suspicion to make an early diagnosis; thus it is important that individuals have regular general evaluations by their doctors.


SVG Cancer Society,

P.O. Box 709, Kingstown.