Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that forms from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. Plasma cells produce antibodies that recognize and attack germs. Multiple myeloma occurs when cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow and overtake healthy blood cells. Rather than producing beneficial antibodies, cancer cells produce abnormal proteins and can lead to complications.


Symptoms & Diagnosis

In the early stages of multiple myeloma, there may not be any signs or symptoms. As the disease progresses, the following may occur:

  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental fogginess or confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness or numbness in your legs


Your doctor may discover multiple myeloma while testing for another condition or based on your symptoms.

The following tests and procedures are used to diagnose multiple myeloma:


Blood tests

Proteins produced by myeloma cells may be detected in your blood through laboratory analysis, such as M protein, free light chains, immunoglobulins and other proteins that help in both the diagnosis and the assessment of multiple myeloma.


Urine tests

Analysis of your urine may show M proteins or free light chains, which are referred to as Bence Jones proteins when they're detected in urine.


Examination of your bone marrow

A bone marrow biopsy is performed to examine the myeloma cells and detect gene mutations using specialized tests, such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). This helps us to select the best treatment for patients


Imaging tests

In order to detect bone problems associated with multiple myeloma, imaging tests may be recommended. Tests may include an X-ray, MRI, CT, or positron emission tomography (PET).


Treatment
Chemotherapy

This treatment involves the use of medications to kill cancer cells.


Bone marrow transplant This involves the removal of blood-forming stem cells from the patient, followed by the administration of high-dose chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. Once the chemotherapy is complete, the blood-forming stem cells are returned to the patient's body to help rebuild the bone marrow in your bones.
Radiation therapy

This involves the use of high-energy radiation to quickly shrink myeloma cells and kill the cancer cells.


Targeted therapy

This involves the use of medications that target specific proteins in cancer cells to kill them or prevent their growth.


Corticosteroids

Corticosteroid medications regulate the immune system to control inflammation in the body. They are also active against myeloma cells.


Immunotherapy

This involves the use of drugs that help the body's immune system to identify and attack cancer cells.


Supportive care

This includes treatments such as pain management, bone-strengthening medications and blood transfusions to help manage symptoms and complications associated with multiple myeloma.