Diagnosing Multiple Myeloma

The multiple myeloma team at Siteman Cancer Center will use advanced screening and imaging techniques to fully assess your condition. Because multiple myeloma can impact several different organ systems at once, your physicians will perform a range of tests to ensure that they correctly identify your disease. As experienced specialists, they will get your diagnosis right the first time and start you on a personalized treatment plan.

Many patients travel great distances to be seen at Siteman, so we try to make your time with us as efficient as possible. You may be scheduled for multiple tests and appointments on the same day to spare you from having to make additional trips to our facility.

The diagnostic process

Many patients first learn that they may have multiple myeloma after visiting their primary care physician. They may be experiencing symptoms of multiple myeloma, or they may have come to the doctor for a regular appointment. After performing a physical exam and discussing the patient’s medical history, the doctor may order certain blood and urine tests to look for abnormalities that could indicate multiple myeloma.

If these tests suggest you may multiple myeloma, you will undergo more advanced tests. Patients are often referred for a bone marrow biopsy, a procedure in which bone marrow is collected from the hipbone so it can be examined for myeloma cells. You’ll be given local anesthesia to keep you comfortable.

Patients may also undergo one or more imaging procedures before their physicians reach a diagnosis. These usually include PET (or positron emission tomography) scans and CT scans. The scans are used to identify myeloma cells, tumors, and potential problem areas throughout the body. Because multiple myeloma can damage the bones, your physician may also recommend that you have an X-ray survey of your skeletal system.

Staging of multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma and other plasma cell neoplasms are assigned stages of 1 through 3, with stage 1 being the least severe. To stage the disease, your physicians will look at the results of certain blood tests and evaluate your overall state of health.