Multiple myeloma can cause symptoms, including bone pain in the back and ribs, broken bones in the spine, weakness, fatigue, thirst, frequent infections and fevers, weight loss, nausea, constipation and frequent urination. Doctors sometimes find multiple myeloma through routine blood tests. Often, multiple myeloma is suspected after an x-ray for a broken bone.
Usually patients visit their doctors due to other symptoms. If your symptoms suggest multiple myeloma, you may have one or more of the following tests:
- The lab does a complete blood count to check the number of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets in the blood. Multiple myeloma may cause anemia, signaled by low levels of white blood cells and platelets.
The lab also checks for many different proteins, including M protein and other antibodies, as multiple myeloma causes high levels of proteins in the blood. The lab also checks for high levels of calcium and checks creatinine levels to see how well the kidneys are working.
- The lab checks for protein in the urine, specifically Bence Jones protein, a type of M protein.
- X-rays check for broken or thinning bones. A full body x-ray can show how many bones might be damaged by myeloma.
- This is the only sure way to diagnose myeloma. A doctor uses local anesthesia to numb the area and removes bone marrow samples from the hip bone or another large bone to look for cancer cells.
The doctor may obtain bone marrow in two ways, and some patients have both procedures done in the same visit:
Bone Marrow Aspiration
- The doctor removes samples of bone marrow with a thick, hollow needle.
Bone Marrow Biopsy
- The doctor removes a small piece of bone and a bone marrow sample with a thick, hollow needle.
Once the results from the test or procedure are returned you will be able to make thoughtful decisions. Please see Newly Diagnosed
for information on being patient active, treatment decisions, partnering with your healthcare team and finding support.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is difficult. Please see Caregivers
and/or Online Support
for more information on how the Cancer Support Community can offer support.