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Understanding your risk

Like other cancers, your risk depends on many variables, including:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Overall health
  • Certain blood disorders such as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)

Optum’s oncology department offers comprehensive cancer risk assessments and hereditary cancer genetics evaluation programs to help you identify your risk.

Diagnosing multiple myeloma

A doctor may detect multiple myeloma when reviewing routine blood tests, or decide to test based on symptoms. Optum’s doctors use a range of advanced diagnostics to test for and track the progression of multiple myeloma. 

Blood test

A blood test will reveal the amount of M-protein, an abnormal protein produced by myeloma cells, in the bloodstream. Beta-2-microglobulin, which is another protein produced by myeloma cells, may be measured to determine how aggressively the cancer is developing. 

Urine test

Similar to the blood test, a urinalysis may be performed to get a measure of the amount of M-proteins being produced.

Biopsy

Based on the results of the blood and/or urine test, your physician may want to confirm a diagnosis with a biopsy. During this procedure, a sample of bone marrow will be extracted. The sample will be sent to a lab where a pathologist will examine for the presence of myeloma cells. The pathologist may also be able to determine the rate at which the myeloma cells are growing.

Imaging tests

An imaging test such as an X-ray or an MRI may be performed to determine if there has been any bone loss or bone weakening as a result of multiple myeloma.

Types of multiple myeloma and symptoms

While there are many variants of multiple myeloma, the most important distinction is whether the condition is smoldering (non-symptomatic) or active (symptomatic).

In active multiple myeloma variants, cancerous cells multiply quickly,  which leaves less space for normal blood cells and produces large quantities of M protein, which can cause  other complications of myeloma such as:

  • Bone pain
  • Anemia (vitamin D deficiency)
  • Kidney failure
  • High blood calcium
  • Weakened areas of bone

Treatment

The suggested treatment options for multiple myeloma will depend on the type, and your overall health. However, the most common treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy: chemicals administered in pill or IV form to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy: high-powered beams of energy, such as X-rays and protons, that are used to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells
  • Targeted Therapy: drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells or by directing your immune system to kill cancer cells
  • Surgery: to remove the the tumor or affected area

 Medical care and help

To find a multiple myeloma specialist near you, visit our providers page.

Contact us if you have any questions.