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Cancer Health Center

Multiple Myeloma

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Getting a Diagnosis

Before you have any tests, your doctor will want to know:

  • When did you first notice symptoms?
  • Do you have pain? Where?
  • How is your appetite?
  • Have you lost any weight?
  • Are you more tired than usual? When did this start?
  • Are you being treated for any medical conditions?
  • Do you take any medications?
  • Does anyone in your family have cancer? What type?
  • Does anyone in your family have a blood condition? What type?

Blood and urine tests can diagnose multiple myeloma. One of the main ones is called electrophoresis. It measures the level of antibodies, called immunoglobulins, in your urine and blood. Your body makes immunoglobulins when it is trying to fight something.

You might have one of these other tests:

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine to check how well your kidneys work
  • Protein levels in the blood and urine
  • Complete blood count (CBC) to measure red and white blood cells

Your doctor may suggest that you have a bone marrow biopsy. A doctor or technician inserts a needle into your bone, usually in the hip, and removes a sample of liquid marrow. People with multiple myeloma have a high number of plasma cells in their bone marrow.

Imaging tests can also help doctors diagnose multiple myeloma and see whether it has spread. These tests may include:

  • Bone X-rays, which use radiation in low doses to make images of your bones
  • CT scans, powerful X-rays that make detailed pictures of your body
  • MRI, which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make pictures of organs and structures inside your body
  • PET scans, which use materials that give off energy, called tracers, to look for cancer

Before suggesting treatment, doctors will want to know the number of myeloma cells in your body, if you have bone damage, and your red blood cell count.

What to Ask Your Doctor

  • Do I need any more tests?
  • What stage is my cancer and how does this affect my treatment options?
  • Have you treated this disease before?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • How will it make me feel?
  • What if it doesn't work?
  • Is a stem cell transplant possible?
  • Could I be part of a clinical trial?
  • Should my family be tested?
  • How does my family find support in managing this disease?

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