Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a cancer that develops in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow. Understanding myeloma involves exploring its diagnosis, treatment options, and management strategies. Here’s a comprehensive guide:

Diagnosis of Myeloma

Diagnosing myeloma involves several steps to confirm the presence of the disease and determine its extent:

  1. Blood Tests:
    • Complete Blood Count (CBC): Measures levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
    • Serum Protein Electrophoresis (SPE): Detects abnormal proteins (M-proteins) produced by myeloma cells.
    • Kidney Function Tests: Assess kidney function, as myeloma can cause kidney damage.
    • Calcium Levels: Elevated calcium levels may indicate bone breakdown due to myeloma.
  2. Urine Tests:
    • Urine Protein Electrophoresis: Detects abnormal proteins in urine, including Bence Jones proteins, which are produced by myeloma cells.
  3. Bone Marrow Biopsy:
    • A procedure to collect a sample of bone marrow for examination under a microscope. It helps determine the percentage of plasma cells and any genetic abnormalities (cytogenetics).
  4. Imaging Studies:
    • X-rays, CT Scans, MRI: These tests help evaluate bone damage or lesions caused by myeloma. PET scans may also be used to assess disease activity.

Staging of Myeloma

Staging helps determine the extent of the disease and guides treatment decisions. The staging system commonly used for myeloma is the International Staging System (ISS), which considers levels of beta-2 microglobulin and albumin in the blood.

  • Stage I: Low levels of beta-2 microglobulin and albumin.
  • Stage II: Intermediate levels.
  • Stage III: High levels.

Treatment Options for Myeloma

Treatment for myeloma aims to control the disease, manage symptoms, and improve quality of life. The choice of treatment depends on several factors, including the stage of the disease, overall health, age, and personal preferences. Common treatment options include:

  1. Induction Therapy:
    • Chemotherapy: Uses drugs to kill cancer cells or inhibit their growth. Commonly used regimens include combinations of drugs like bortezomib, lenalidomide, and dexamethasone.
    • Immunomodulatory Drugs (IMiDs): Drugs like lenalidomide and thalidomide enhance the immune system’s response against myeloma cells.
  2. High-Dose Chemotherapy with Stem Cell Transplantation:
    • Autologous Transplant: Uses the patient’s own stem cells collected before treatment to replace diseased bone marrow after high-dose chemotherapy.
  3. Targeted Therapy:
    • Proteasome Inhibitors: Drugs like bortezomib, carfilzomib, and ixazomib block the action of proteasomes, leading to the accumulation of proteins that cause cell death in myeloma cells.
    • Monoclonal Antibodies: Drugs like daratumumab and elotuzumab target specific proteins on myeloma cells, enhancing immune response against the cancer.
  4. Steroid Therapy:
    • Dexamethasone: A corticosteroid that is often used in combination with other drugs to treat myeloma and manage symptoms.
  5. Radiation Therapy:
    • Localized Treatment: Uses high-energy rays to target and destroy myeloma cells in specific areas, particularly effective for bone pain or spinal cord compression.
  6. Supportive Care:
    • Pain Management: Medications and interventions to alleviate bone pain and other symptoms.
    • Bone Health: Bisphosphonates or denosumab to prevent bone complications.
    • Infection Prevention: Antibiotics and vaccinations to reduce infection risk.
  7. Clinical Trials:
    • Participation in clinical trials offers access to new treatments and helps advance research in myeloma treatment.


The prognosis for myeloma varies widely depending on factors such as the stage of the disease, response to treatment, and overall health. Advances in treatment have improved survival rates, with many patients living longer and managing myeloma as a chronic condition. Regular monitoring and follow-up care are essential to manage the disease and minimize complications.


Myeloma is a complex disease that requires a multidisciplinary approach to treatment and management. Early diagnosis, personalized treatment plans, and ongoing support are crucial for optimizing outcomes and quality of life for individuals with myeloma. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with myeloma, consulting with a hematologist/oncologist experienced in treating blood cancers is essential for developing an individualized care plan.

By Sue