Symptoms and diagnosis of myeloma

Symptoms

Sometimes myeloma can be picked up on a routine blood test when you have no symptoms at all. Or else you may have symptoms that are vague. But as the condition develops it can affect your bone, blood and kidneys.

Bone effects

The most common symptoms of bone disease are:

  • Bone pain
  • Bone fractures
  • Osteoporosis
  • Numbness and/or pins and needles

Blood effects

The most common symptoms of blood problems are:

  • Fatigue
  • Infections
  • Anaemia
  • Bruising

Kidney effects

The most common symptoms of kidneys problems are:

  • Hypercalcaemia: This is high levels of calcium in your blood caused by bone cells being destroyed.
  • Kidney problems: When paraproteins released by the myeloma cells make your blood thicker, it can affect how the kidney works.

Screening

Testing for myeloma when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no myeloma screening programme in Ireland or anywhere else in the world. If you are worried about myeloma, contact your GP or the National Cancer Helpline 1800 200 700.

Tests

The following tests may be done to diagnose myeloma:

  • Blood tests: These check your blood count and also how well your kidneys are working. They can check the levels of calcium, normal proteins and paraproteins.
     
  • Urine tests: These can check for normal proteins and paraproteins. Special tests: These can check the levels of special proteins called immunoglobulins (antibodies) that fight infection. Protein electrophoresis of blood and urine can show which type of paraprotein is present. The serum free light chain test looks at tiny amounts of abnormal proteins. Beta-2 microglobulin can show the stage of the myeloma.
     
  • Bone tests: An X-ray is taken of all your bones to see if the myeloma cells have damaged them. This is called a skeletal survey. Bone marrow biopsy: A sample of bone marrow is taken usually from your hipbone to see if myeloma cells are present.

Other tests

There are other tests that can give your doctor more information about the extent and severity of the disease. This is called staging.These include:

  • MRI scan: Magnetic energy is used to build up a picture of the tissues inside your body. It can show if other tissues are affected by myeloma.
  • CT scan: A CT scan is a type of X-ray that takes pictures of your body from different angles. It can show if your bones are affected by myeloma.
  • Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to build up a picture of any part of your body. It can check if your kidneys have been affected by myeloma.

See also the booklet called Understanding Myeloma (pdf 2.54MB).

Learn more about tests

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm