Classifying Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is classified into one of three categories. Classification of multiple myeloma is important because immediate disease-directed treatment is needed only for symptomatic myeloma. Knowing your classification is very important in deciding when it is appropriate to begin treatment. Classification also plays an important role in determining the stage of multiple myeloma.

The three categories of multiple myeloma are:

1. Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
2. Asymptomatic myeloma (further subdivided into smoldering myeloma or indolent myeloma)
3. Symptomatic myeloma

Patients in some categories do not have to receive treatment immediately, but may receive bisphosphonates if osteoporosis is present, or other supportive care for symptoms and complications. In these cases, postponing therapy may help avoid unnecessary side effects and the risk of complications associated with chemotherapy and may also delay development of resistance to chemotherapy. Participation in a clinical trial is also an option for many patients.