Diagnosing Multiple Myeloma

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for developing the best plan for treating your type and stage of multiple myeloma. Fox Chase’s hematopathologists—pathologists who specialize in the diagnosis of blood cancers—have specific expertise for properly diagnosing blood cancers and other blood diseases. These specialists are not available at all healthcare centers and are most often found at comprehensive cancer centers.

A diagnosis of multiple myeloma is based on identification of a clone of plasma cells in the bone marrow or a collection of clonal plasma cells outside the bone marrow. Diagnostic tests may include the following:

  • A review of the patient’s medical history and a physical examination
  • Blood or urine tests
  • Skeletal surveys
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), or positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • A bone marrow biopsy

How Soon Can I Expect My Test Results?

It usually takes at least a few days to receive test results, although the time varies for each test. Your physician will provide your results as soon as possible, along with a thorough explanation of your diagnosis and answers to any questions you have. At that time, your physician will recommend a treatment plan tailored to your diagnosis.

Staging of Multiple Myeloma

If diagnostic tests indicate you have multiple myeloma, your care team will use the information gathered to classify your disease as stage I, stage II or stage III. Staging depends on various factors, including the number of cancerous cells in the body and the amount of damage the cells have caused.

Along with these three stages, there is an A and a B component to staging based on whether your kidney function has been affected.

What If I Have Already Been Diagnosed at Another Hospital?

If you have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, you most likely want to start treatment as soon as possible. But, there’s merit in having someone else weigh in on your diagnosis and treatment options.

At Fox Chase, we routinely offer second opinions, which could help identify new treatment options that might be more effective for your condition. In fact, it is common to seek a second opinion for a cancer diagnosis, and some insurance companies even require it.

Coming to Fox Chase also means you’ll likely have greater access to clinical trials appropriate for your condition. Our designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) means we are part of a network of research centers where hundreds of clinical trials take place every day.

If you decide to seek a second opinion at Fox Chase, be sure to bring your medical records, imaging results, and pathology report, or have your physician forward them to us. Our nurse navigators will help you throughout this process.

You may also need to have additional testing done to confirm your diagnosis, which will be reviewed by our specialized hematopathologists and could change the course of your treatment plan.

Your Patient Care Team at Fox Chase

To design an individualized care and treatment plan, our multiple myeloma care team draws on the diverse experience of physicians in medical oncology, hematology, radiation oncology, radiology, and hematopathology, as well as other clinical staff. We work together to diagnose your cancer and help you make informed decisions about treatment.

Your dedicated team also includes nurse navigators, social workers, and other specialized support staff. As a key part of your team, they will provide emotional support and coping strategies for you and your family when you need them most. At Fox Chase, we take enormous pride in providing world-class care for our patients with multiple myeloma.