Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis
Screening tests, like mammograms for breast cancer, are used to detect illness in a general population, including people who have no symptoms.
There are no screening tests for multiple myeloma.
If your symptoms indicate the possibility of multiple myeloma, your WellStar physician will prescribe various lab and imaging tests.
A complete blood count will be run on a sample of your blood. This reveals:
- The quantities of red blood cells and platelets.
- The quantities and types of white blood cells
- The amount of hemoglobin (the iron-containing protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells
A blood test called serum protein electrophoresis separates blood proteins and detects the presence of M proteins, called an "M spike," in your blood. Parts of M proteins may also be detected in a urine test; when found in urine, these parts are referred to as Bence Jones proteins.
If your doctor discovers M proteins, you'll need additional blood chemistry tests to measure levels of calcium, uric acid and creatinine. You may also have other blood tests to check for beta2-microglobulin, another protein produced by myeloma cells
A small piece of bone, blood, and marrow are extracted in in a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. This tissue is examined under a microscope by a pathologist for abnormal plasma cells. This is the only definitive test for multiple myeloma.
In a fine needle aspiration (FNA) a very thin needle and a syringe are used to sample a small amount of tissue from a tumor or lymph node. The core needle biopsy is much the same, but a larger needle is used and a larger tissue sample is removed.
- Bone x-rays show damage caused by the myeloma cells can be seen with x-rays. A series of x-rays that includes most of the bones is called a bone survey.
- A computed tomography (CT) scan can reveal bone damage due to myeloma, and can also be used to guide a biopsy needle into a tumor.
- Magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) is very helpful in examining bones, the brain, the spinal cord, and bone marrow, and can find plasmacytomas that cannot be seen on X-rays.
Before a Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, radioactive sugar is injected into your bloodstream. Since cancer cells are growing very quickly, they absorb high amounts of sugar, which is visible to the PET scan. When a patient appears to have a solitary plasmacytoma, a PET scan may be used to look for others.
Multiple Myeloma Stages
When myeloma is diagnosed, your WellStar physician will categorize it by the current stage. Staging may require additional tests, such as blood tests, a CT scan and an MRI.
Each stage describes the progression of the disease and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. You should talk to your WellStar physician to understand each stage, and what it means for your treatment plan.