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Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis

To give you every advantage in treating multiple myeloma, MD Anderson’s specialized experts us the most advanced equipment with the highest level of skill.

We’re one of the few cancer centers with the ability to use genetic testing to examine your bone marrow to determine exactly how to treat multiple myeloma. This often means higher rates of success in treatment, as well as less impact on the body.

Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis

If you have symptoms that may signal multiple myeloma, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health and your medical history. One or more of the following tests may be used to find out if you have multiple myeloma and if it has spread. These tests also may be used to find out if treatment is working.

Blood and urine tests determine calcium levels and changes in abnormal proteins that multiple myeloma produces. In the blood, these proteins are called paraproteins. A test called serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) measures paraproteins. In the urine, these proteins are called Bence-Jones proteins. They are measured by collecting a 24-hour urine sample and running a urine protein electrophoresis (UPEP).

A blood test called an immunofixation (IFE) test, may help find small traces of abnormal proteins.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

Biopsy: Multiple myeloma can cause tumors called plasmacytomas in the bone or soft tissue around the bone. These tumors may be biopsied.

Imaging tests, which may include:

  • X-rays
  • Bone density scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scans
  • CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans

Multiple Myeloma Staging

If you are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, your doctor will determine the stage of the disease. Staging is a way of determining how much disease is in the body and where it has spread. This information helps the doctor plan the best treatment. Once the staging classification is determined, it stays the same even if treatment is successful or the cancer spreads.

Did You Know?

Multiple myeloma is part of MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program: an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths through the rapid discovery and implementation of new treatments.

Multiple Myeloma Stages

(source: National Cancer Institute)

The International Staging System is used to determine the stage of multiple myeloma. It is based on two blood tests, the serum albumin and the serum Beta 2 microglobulin (β2M).

Stage I: Albumin ≥ 3.5 g/dL and β2M < 3.5 mg/L

Stage II: Albumin < 3.5 g/dL and β2M < 3.5 mg/L; or β2M ≥ 3.5 mg/L and < 5.5 mg/L

Stage III: β2M ≥ 5.5 mg/L

Clinical Trials

MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials
offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.

Knowledge Center

Find the latest news and information about multiple myeloma in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news releases and more.