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Woman’s blood cancer misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel due to burning hand pain

Multiple myeloma is a rare form of blood cancer affecting plasma cells

Meredith Clark
New York
Wednesday 07 December 2022 23:05 GMT
Al Roker gives cancer update

A 44-year-old woman was diagnosed with carpal tunnel after experiencing symptoms of burning hand pain, only to discover later that she actually has blood cancer.

Roban Lampkin was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2019, when she was 41 years old. Multiple myeloma is a rare form of blood cancer that affects plasma cells – a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections by making antibodies.

Prior to learning she had blood cancer, Lampkin first began to notice small bubbles in her urine, which doctors dismissed as a warning sign of kidney damage. Then, she started getting bruises and red spots on her body, and her ankles became swollen. At one point, she found sores on the inside of her mouth and tongue that made it hard to speak. Finally, she started experiencing neuropathy, severe burning sensations in her hands and arms that led doctors to believe she had carpal tunnel.

Speaking to The Independent, Lampkin knew that her symptoms were not a sign of carpal tunnel.

“I was confused how anyone could go around functioning normally with this type of pain,” she told us. “I knew that millions of people that suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome were not feeling this way. There’s no way that that could be the diagnosis.”

About 12m Americans are affected by medical misdiagnosis each year, according to a study from BMJ Quality & Safety. Earlier this year, a father of two died from a stage four brain tumour after he was misdiagnosed with sleep apnea. Meanwhile, one woman revealed how her doctor dismissed signs of colon cancer due to her weight.

Over on TikTok – where Lampkin regularly posts about her health journey to her 35k followers – she detailed the first signs she noticed before being diagnosed with blood cancer.

“The number one sign that I had something wrong with my health…was bubbles in my urine,” she recently told her followers. “They were low, like really low to the toilet water line, they were congregated in a group together. It was enough for me to mention it to my doctor. Unfortunately, at that time the PCP just said it was no big deal. He did mention that it was probably an extra protein in my urine, which actually turned out to be true. It was a cancerous indicator of protein.”

After one night when Lampkin woke up once again in burning hand pain, doctors started doing tests and taking blood work. They discovered Lampkin’s kidneys were near failure.

“Finally, they did a 2-hour urinalysis, which came back with an extra protein in my urine called Bence-Jones, which is multiple myeloma,” she said. “It took about eight days to figure this out in the hospital.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are about 34,500 cases of multiple myeloma every year in the United States. The disease has a five-year survival rate of less than 60 per cent.

In October, Lampkin revealed to her TikTok followers the symptoms she experienced before her cancer diagnosis.

“These are the signs that I had,” Lampkin said in a viral video. “I didn’t know, I had no idea for a while. But the first sign had to have been that I was anemic.”

One of the first symptoms Roban Lampkin noticed were her swollen ankles (Courtesy of Roban Lampkin)

The California-based mom also explained how the other signs she missed were her swollen ankles, lower back pain, and tongue sores.

Lampkin began posting about her cancer journey a little over a year ago, so that she could “feel free” to be herself and “speak to other people” about her diagnosis. Now, Lampkin is the founder of a non-profit called Myeloma Movement, which is “committed to supporting patients of multiple myeloma by providing educational resources, emotional support and financial assistance only possible through generous donations,” per its website.

Roban Lampkin was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2019 (Courtesy of Roban Lampkin)

“It’s been amazing to be able to be there for other people not only to give advice, but also to listen because sometimes people just want to be heard,” she explained. “I feel like that’s super important but it’s also important to always help people to understand that this is my experience, and these are things that I’ve been through, and it doesn’t mean they’re going to have the same diagnosis as me.”

Roban Lampkin found sores on the inside of her mouth and tongue that made it hard to speak (Courtesy of Roban Lampkin)

“I do find it extremely encouraging that 90 per cent of the people that follow me are women,” she added. “I was always a tomboy and felt like I got along well with guys, so this whole TikTok experience has opened my eyes to the fact that I can relate to women, and women are powerful and amazing, especially when we come together.”

As for the message she hopes people take away from viewing her story, Lampkin said: “Do not stop and make sure you get answers if you feel that there’s something wrong with your health. Often we’re overlooked and we’re given the wrong information. It’s important to go the extra mile and be extremely vocal about your health.”

“When it comes to things like cancer, catching it early is always better. Even though I have a cancer that’s not curable, it is treatable, and I could’ve saved my kidney health had I known sooner what was going on with me.”

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