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- Patient Comments: Multiple Myeloma - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Multiple Myeloma - Prognosis
- Patient Comments: Multiple Myeloma - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Multiple Myeloma - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Multiple Myeloma - Follow-up care
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- Multiple myeloma facts
- What is multiple myeloma? What are plasma cells?
- What causes multiple myeloma?
- What are risk factors for multiple myeloma? Is multiple myeloma hereditary?
- What are multiple myeloma symptoms and signs?
- What tests do health care professionals use to make a diagnosis of multiple myeloma?
- What types of health care professionals treat multiple myeloma?
- What are the stages of multiple myeloma?
- What is the medical treatment for multiple myeloma?
- What are lifestyle and diet tips for people with multiple myeloma?
- What is the prognosis for multiple myeloma? What is the survival rate for multiple myeloma?
- Is it possible to prevent multiple myeloma?
- What support systems are available for multiple myeloma?
- What is the latest research on multiple myeloma?
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What tests do health care professionals use to make a diagnosis of multiple myeloma?
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 health care professional 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 is one (plasmacytoma) or more (multiple myeloma) 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 (DNA) 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 (IgG or IgA, for example) or only a portion of the protein called a lambda or kappa 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.