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Types of myeloma

Light chain/Bence Jones

About 1 in 5 people with myeloma (20%) do not produce complete immunoglobulins (paraproteins). They only produce part of the immunoglobulin called the light chain (Bence Jones) protein.

The light chain proteins are smaller than complete immunoglobulins and show up in the blood and urine. This can be monitored through the traditional way of urine tests but more commonly now it is monitored in the blood through a test called serum free light chains.

This test can pick up free light chains in the blood and is easier as you don’t have to collect 24 hours worth of urine every month. You may have both these tests to help diagnose and monitor this type of myeloma.

Non-secretory myeloma

In about 3 out of every 100 people with myeloma (3%), the myeloma cells produce little or no immunoglobulin (paraprotein). This makes it harder to diagnose. 

The serum free light chain test may pick up very low levels of paraprotein, and so can be helpful in diagnosing this type of myeloma. However for most people, doctors use bone marrow tests to diagnose and monitor non-secretory myeloma.

You can read more about diagnosis and treating myeloma here.

 

Last reviewed: June 2016

Next planned review: June 2018