About 1,500 new cases of Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (also known as lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma) are diagnosed each year in the United States, accounting for less than 2 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, causing it to become thick, similar to the consistency of syrup. When this happens, blood flow to many organs decreases, which may cause vision problems and neurological problems, such as headache, dizziness, and confusion. In addition, people with Waldenstrom’s may bleed easily.
Patients who do not have symptoms may initially be monitored, known as watchful waiting. Thickening of the blood may be treated with a procedure called plasmapheresis, which involves removing the patient’s blood, passing it through a machine that eliminates the IgM, and then returning 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 this disease isn’t usually considered curable, patients may continue to be treated and achieve multiple remissions.
- Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia, American Cancer Society
- International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation
- Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia Facts, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- Getting the Facts: Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia, Lymphoma Research Foundation
- Macroglobulinemia of Waldenstrom, A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia