Diagnosing multiple myeloma can be difficult because the initial symptoms resemble other more common ailments.
“It’s very common for someone to say, ‘you know, I’ve been feeling really tired’, and ‘you know, I noticed I had a few more infections last winter,’ ” says Dr. Nina Shah, hematologist at UCSF. Multiple myeloma can cause symptoms such as fatigue and a greater susceptibility to illness because the disease disrupts the body’s immune system. Your physician may then decide to run several tests, including:
- Blood draw: vials of blood are drawn to identify signs of anemia, a condition marked by a lack of healthy blood cells
- MRI or PET scan: these produce images that can help identify bone fractures caused by tumors in the bone marrow
- Urine test: checks for the presence of abnormal proteins that myeloma cells produce
- Bone-marrow biopsy: confirm the myeloma diagnosis and help characterize it as either high-risk or low-risk