Patients with Multiple Myeloma (MM) often have a significant delay between onset of symptoms and diagnosis of disease. As a result, a significant number of patients present via emergency routes with severe co-morbidities which affect survival rates. Timely diagnosis relies on the early recognition of symptoms and blood test results which may indicate disease.


We examined the medical records of 142 newly diagnosed MM patients (121 intact immunoglobulin and 21 light chains) across 2 UK Hospitals. Patients included had not previously been diagnosed with a plasma cell dyscrasia, including Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). Clinical symptoms and blood test results were examined from the time of initial presentation to the healthcare system with symptoms indicative of MM, to the point of diagnosis in order to highlight patterns of symptoms and blood tests results which may give an early indication of disease. Blood tests results recorded included globulin, calcium, creatinine, erythroid sedimentation rate and haemoglobin. Time to diagnosis from presentation with symptoms indicative of MM was also measured as well as the patient pathway from the point of presentation to the point of diagnosis.


The median time to diagnosis from initial presentation was 77 days (range 0 - 12,986). Initial presentation was most commonly via primary care (58.1%). Urgent secondary care presentation was documented in 28.5% which included acute medical unit (15.6%), the emergency department (7.1%), and other secondary care specialities (5.7%) respectively. Multiple GP visits were common prior to haematology referral with a median of 3 visits (range 1 - 40). Initial presenting symptoms varied, but of those with data recorded (n=107) back/bone pain was the most common (58.2%) followed by anaemia (18.7%), fracture (7.5%), recurrent infection (7.5%) and renal impairment (3.7%) respectively. Interestingly, analysis of evaluable blood test results revealed a raised globulin was most often evident prior to diagnosis with 58% of patients recording an abnormal globulin a median of 140 days (range 3 - 4297) prior to diagnosis of disease.


Multiple GP visits prior to establishing a diagnosis of myeloma is very common. Inclusion of abnormal globulin to reflex electrophoresis request and serum free light chain assay may serve as a useful trigger for investigation when interpreted alongside presenting symptoms and other blood test results. Increased awareness of myeloma warning signs in primary care may reduce diagnostic delay and avoid presentation with severe co-morbidities in emergency settings.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Sign in via your Institution