Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia

Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia

Also known as Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma

About 1,500 new cases of Waldentrom’s macroglobulinemia are diagnosed each year in the United States, accounting for less than two percent of lymphomas. The disease usually affects older adults. This lymphoma is slow growing and is found mainly in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen.

It is different from other lymphomas because Waldenstrom’s lymphoma cells often make immunoglobulin M (IgM), a very large antibody. IgM circulates in the blood, sometimes causing it to become thick, similar to the consistency of syrup. When this happens, blood flow is decreased to many organs, which may cause problems with vision and neurological problems, such as headache, dizziness, and confusion. In addition, patients with Waldenstrom’s may bleed easily.

Patients who do not have symptoms may initially be treated with watchful waiting. Thickening of the blood may be treated with a procedure called plasmapheresis, which removes the patient’s blood, passes it through a machine that eliminates the IgM, and then returns the blood to the patient. This may be combined with other treatments, including single-agent or combination chemotherapy. Biologic agents and stem cell transplant may also be used. Although it isn't usually considered to be curable, patients may continue to be treated and achieve additional remissions.

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