Explainer: What is amyloidosis, the rare form of blood cancer that Aslan legend Christy Dignam is battling?

Conor McKeever

Christy Dignam
Credit: Nick Bradshaw

Irish music legend Christy Dignam is receiving palliative care for a rare form of blood cancer, amyloidosis.

The Aslan singer, aged 62, has been suffering with the disease since March 2013, with his family caring for him at his home residence since December. 

But what is amyloidosis?

Amyloidosis is an incurable form of blood cancer which is caused by an abnormality in bone marrow cells. The abnormal plasma cells found in the bone marrow results in the deposit of amyloid proteins into the bloodstream, which can be fatal.

Beaumont Hospital haematologist, Dr John Quinn describes Amyloidosis as a very “rare illness” that is difficult to diagnose in the early stages, which means it can become fatal when spotted. 

“It can be a difficult diagnosis to make and because the symptoms are nonspecific, a patient can see a number of doctors before a diagnosis is made.”

“This means the disease can be at an advanced stage and if the heart is involved, then it becomes more difficult to manage and has a poorer outlook,” Quinn said. 

The end of life symptoms commonly associated with Amyloidosis include, severe fatigue and shortness of breath, the swelling of arms and legs, and a strong numbness and tingling around the hands and feet. 

The most common cause of death in Amyloidosis cases are heart complications. 

Dignam has undergone extensive treatment since his diagnosis including chemotherapy, all while recording new music and performing around the country. 

Many of Aslan’s concerts were unable to go ahead last year due to the singer’s inability to perform. 

In a statement released by Dignam’s family, it was said that in “July 2022, Christy was admitted to Beaumont Hospital and spent the next six months in the care of the Haematology and Cardiac Care team.”

“Since December, Christy has been at home and is being cared for lovingly by family, with the support of a palliative care team.”

“The Dignam family thanks everyone for keeping Christy in their thoughts and prayers and asks for privacy at this time.”

Conor McKeever

Image Credit: Nick Bradshaw