Diagnosis

At Roswell Park, board-certified hematopathologists (pathologists who specialize in identifying blood cancers) diagnose and classify multiple myeloma and other blood cancers using the most advanced technology. Our hematopathologists work closely with the multiple myeloma clinical team to provide fast, complete test results.

Standard diagnostic tests for multiple myeloma at Roswell Park include:

  • Physical exam 
  • Blood tests: The lab tests look for high levels of specific proteins in the blood. A complete blood check will also determine the number of white and red blood cells and platelets. Calcium and creatinine blood levels will be measured.
  • Urine tests: The lab will test urine collected over a 24-hour period, to check for Bence Jones protein and kidney function. Because Bence Jones protein can clog and damage the kidneys, if you have a high level of this protein, doctors will need to monitor your kidney function.
  • X-rays (skeletal survey): You may need x-rays to check for thinning or broken bones. 
  • Biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy is the only sure way to find out whether excessive plasma cells are present in the bone marrow. There are two ways your doctor can obtain bone marrow. Some people will have both procedures during the same visit:
    • Bone marrow aspiration: The doctor uses a hollow needle to remove samples of bone marrow.
    • Bone marrow biopsy: The doctor uses a hollow needle to remove a small piece of bone and bone marrow.
  • Cytogenetic analysis of your multiple myeloma: The team of doctors will characterize your multiple myeloma at the genetic level to further assess the risk category of your disease (i.e., standard vs. high-risk multiple myeloma).

Roswell Park continually adds advanced technology to its toolkit to provide fast, early and accurate multiple myeloma detection and diagnosis. RPCI is the only provider in Western New York offering a full in-house molecular pathology service, which speeds diagnosis and helps avoid delays in beginning treatment.

Risk Factors 

A risk factor is anything that may increase your risk for a disease. Studies have identified the following risk factors for multiple myeloma:
  • Age over 65 
  • Race: the risk of multiple myeloma is highest among African-Americans and lowest among Asian-Americans
  • Male gender
  • Personal history of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) 
  • Family history of multiple myeloma
  • A history of other plasma cell diseases

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will get multiple myeloma. Most people who have risk factors never develop the disease.