Information for the public

Tests for myeloma


Myeloma is diagnosed with blood tests, tests on your bone marrow, and imaging tests.

To get a sample of your bone marrow, you will need to have a short procedure in hospital. You will be given a local anaesthetic and a small amount of your bone marrow will be taken (usually from your hip) with a needle. This bone marrow is tested so that your care team can confirm whether or not you have myeloma, and find out what kind of myeloma you have.

Imaging tests

Imaging tests for people who might have myeloma

If your care team think you might have myeloma or smouldering myeloma, they should offer you imaging tests to see if you have any problems with your bones (such as fractures or bones that are in danger of fracturing). What kind of test you have will depend on what is suitable for you and what you prefer.

  • You will normally be offered an MRI scan first.

  • If an MRI scan is unsuitable for you or you don't want it, you will normally be offered a CT scan.

  • If MRI and CT scans are both unsuitable for you or you don't want either of them, you will normally be offered a skeletal survey.

You should not be offered a test called an isotope bone scan to check for bone problems, because this test is less accurate than the ones listed above.

Imaging tests for people who have been diagnosed with myeloma or smouldering myeloma

If you had different imaging tests before you were diagnosed or haven't had scans of your whole body before, you may be offered an MRI, CT or FDG PET-CT scan of your whole body when you are diagnosed with myeloma or smouldering myeloma. This is to check if the myeloma is damaging your bones or has spread to other parts of your body.

Myeloma can cause a problem with your spine called spinal cord compression. This can lead to pain and paralysis, and needs treating urgently. NICE has written separate information about metastatic spinal cord compression, which has a different cause to the spinal cord compression caused by myeloma. However, the imaging tests and treatment for both kinds of spinal cord compression are the same, and your healthcare professionals should still follow this advice for people with myeloma.

Tests to find out more about your myeloma

Your care team will also offer you tests to find out more about your myeloma (called prognostic tests). Like the tests to diagnose myeloma, these will be blood and bone marrow tests. However, your care team should use the bone marrow they used to diagnose your myeloma for any prognostic tests, so that you don't have to have this procedure again.

Questions to ask about tests for myeloma

  • Can you tell me more about the tests for myeloma? How many tests will I need to have?

  • Will these tests cause any side effects?

  • Where will I have these tests? Will I need to have them in hospital?

  • How long will I have to wait until I have these tests?

  • How long will it take to know if I have myeloma or not?

  • Where can I (and my family/carers) find more information?

  • Information Standard