What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?

Signs and symptoms of myeloma include:

  • Bone pain, often in the back
  • Bone fractures
  • Frequent infections, particularly pneumonia
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Fluid buildup in the legs
  • Itching
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness and numbness in the hands or feet

In some cases, myeloma does not cause symptoms – called smoldering myeloma – and is diagnosed unexpectedly during a blood test for another reason. Smoldering myeloma is monitored but not treated until it causes symptoms.

How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?

Your diagnosis will begin with an assessment of your symptoms and a physical exam. If your doctor suspects myeloma, he or she will order diagnostic tests to confirm the condition and stage its progression.

Diagnostic testing for myeloma at Miami Cancer Institute may include:

  • Blood tests. These tests look for excessive amounts of certain blood proteins and low blood counts, which are seen in people with myeloma. They are also used to stage the cancer.
  • Urine tests. These tests can also reveal excessive amounts of blood proteins common in myeloma.
  • Bone marrow aspiration or biopsy. These tests examine a sample of liquid bone marrow or solid bone marrow for the presence of excess plasma cells, which indicate myeloma. They can also provide other information about the cancer. Your doctor obtains a bone marrow sample with a special needle that is typically inserted into the hip bone. A local anesthetic is used to numb the site of the procedure.
  • Imaging tests. Positron emission tomography (PET) or MRI scans reveal the location, size and number of myeloma tumors.
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