Tests for myeloma
Checking for myeloma usually involves a number of tests. The results of these tests help your doctor work out whether you have myeloma or a pre-myeloma condition and then recommend the best treatment plan for you.
Click on the links below to learn more about the common diagnostic tests for myeloma.
Learn more about:
- What is paraprotein?
- Blood tests
- Urine and specialised blood tests
- Bone marrow aspiration and trephine biopsy
- Cytogenetic and molecular tests
- Imaging scans
What is paraprotein?
Myeloma cells produce an antibody known as paraprotein. To make a diagnosis of myeloma, doctors will look for this paraprotein in the blood or urine. Once you have been diagnosed with myeloma, doctors will regularly check your paraprotein levels to monitor the disease.
Paraprotein is made up of smaller proteins that are usually linked together to form a pair of long chains (called heavy chains) and a pair of shorter chains (called light chains). Most people with myeloma release complete (intact) paraprotein made up of both heavy and light chains. Intact paraprotein can be detected in a blood test.
Free light chains
About 1 in 5 people with myeloma do not produce intact paraprotein. They produce only the light chain parts. These light chain parts are known as free light chains when detected in a special blood test, and as the Bence Jones protein when found in a urine test. Some people produce both intact paraprotein and free light chains.
Fewer than 1 in 50 people with myeloma produce little or no paraprotein. This is known as non-secretory myeloma. It makes diagnosis and monitoring more difficult.
Prof John Gibson, Haematologist, Institute of Haematology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Stephanie Anderson, Registrar, Institute of Haematology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Tanya Carney, Consumer; Jacqui Keogh, NSW State Manager/Senior Myeloma Nurse NSW, Myeloma Australia; Dr Silvia Ling, Haematologist, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Rachel McCann, Myeloma Support Nurse NSW, Myeloma Australia; John McMath, Consumer; Karen Robinson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW.
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