Multiple Myeloma (cont.)

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What are multiple myeloma symptoms and signs?

Patients with myeloma may be found asymptomatic with an unexplained increase in protein in the blood. With more advanced disease, some myeloma patients may present with weakness due to anemia caused by inadequate production of red blood cells, with bone pain due to the aforementioned bone damage, and as the abnormal M protein can accumulate in and damage the kidneys thereby resulting in a patient being found to have otherwise unexplained kidney damage and decreased kidney function.

The following is a list symptoms and signs of multiple myeloma:

  • Anemia
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Skin lesions
  • Enlarged tongue (macroglossia)
  • Bone tenderness or pain
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Infections
  • Pathologic bone fractures
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Kidney failure

How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?

In many patients, multiple myeloma is first suspected when a routine blood test shows an abnormal amount of protein in the bloodstream or an unusual stickiness of red blood cells causing them to stack up almost like coins in a pattern called rouleaux, an unusual formation for red blood cells. The doctor will do a history and physical exam, looking for signs and symptoms (see above) of multiple myeloma. If multiple myeloma is suspected, several studies help confirm the diagnosis. They include a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy most commonly from the large bones of the pelvis. Cells obtained from the marrow are studied by a pathologist to determine if there are abnormal types or numbers of cells. A sample of the bone marrow aspirate is also studied for more detailed characteristics such as the presence or absence of abnormal numbers or types of chromosomes by what is called cytogenetic testing. Other molecular testing may be done on the marrow sample as well. The bone marrow biopsy can assess the concentrations of cells in the marrow and the presence of abnormal invasive growth of cellular elements. Blood testing and urine testing by several methods can determine levels and types of monoclonal protein produced. The M protein may be a complete form of a type of antibody called an immunoglobulin or only a portion of the protein called a light chain. Normal antibodies consist of both heavy and light chain components. In 2011, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommended that a serum free light chain assay and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) test be used to further identify multiple myeloma in patients. Most clinicians will use X-ray studies to identify skeletal lesions and MRI for spinal, paraspinal, or spinal cord lesions in multiple myeloma. In addition, several routine tests (CBC, sedimentation rate, BUN, C-reactive protein, and others) are also done.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/26/2015

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