Many patients find out they have multiple myeloma during a routine blood test or a diagnostic for a medical condition that has nothing to do with myeloma. However, if you go to hospital because you experience symptoms related to multiple myeloma, your doctor will do test specific to myeloma to confirm the disease.
In general, before moving to sophisticated diagnostic techniques, your doctor will question you about your health, your medical history, and perhaps that of your family. After which, he will examine your body in search of signs that indicate multiple myeloma. These procedures, however, are not sufficient to declare accurately the disease; other special tests need to be performed to confirm a myeloma diagnosis.
Blood and urine tests – during these tests, a specialist will collect urine and blood samples to determine the quantity and quality of different substances in your blood cells. These tests also help your physician to evaluate the functioning of certain organs such as your kidneys.
Your physician will recommend a blood test called serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) to detect presence of abnormal proteins such as M protein, an antibody found in unusually large amounts in the blood or urine of patients with multiple myeloma; or Bence Jones protein, light chains of immunoblobulin found in the urine, of which increased levels may indicate multiple myeloma. In addition, the blood test helps your doctor to know whether the concentrations of calcium in the blood are higher than normal.
Imaging techniques – some imaging exams such as x-rays of your skeleton, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scan or positron emission tomography (PET) scan can be performed to help your doctor do a thorough analysis of your organs, tissues and skeleton.
Biopsy – a biopsy is a key exam in the diagnosis of multiple myeloma. It allows your doctor to establish with certainty the presence of the cancer. It involves removing cells or tissue of bone marrow for laboratory analysis. If cancer cells are found, your physician will perform other tests to determine their rate of spread (staging).