What is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?
What exactly is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia? It is a cancer that begins in the white blood cells. Waldenstrom macroglubulinemia involves the bone marrow producing too many abnormal white blood cells that crowd out the healthy blood cells. The abnormal blood cells produce a protein that impairs circulation and causes complications. It can also result in anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia.
According to the American Cancer Society, lymph cells, or lymphocytes, are the main cells of lymphoid tissue. Because Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a B-cell lymphoma, it is important to understand how the B lymphocytes (B cells) operate. B lymphocytes respond to an infection by changing into plasma cells, which creates antibodies to attack and kill disease-causing germs.
Waldenstrom macroglubulinemia is a non-Hodgkin lymphoma and grows slowly. The disease is also known as Waldenstrom’s disease, lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, and primary macroglobulinemia. The disease is a B-cell lymphoma that occurs in less than 2% of patients who have non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). There are around 2,800 new cases each year in the United States. Older adults (65 years of age and older) are more likely to be affected by the disease, though it can occur at any age. Also, the condition is more common among people who have had family members diagnosed with the disease. This suggests it may be hereditary, though there is not a known cause for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.
Be sure to contact or speak with your doctor if you are concerned about Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. If you have any questions about the disease, it is important to discuss more information with a health care professional you trust.
What are the symptoms of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?
Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the condition. Additionally, in some cases people may experience no symptoms at first. The following is a list of the most common symptoms of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia:
- Bleeding from gums or nose
- Weight loss
- Easy bruising
- Numbness in the hands or feet
- Changes in vision
- Shortness of breath
- Skin lesions
- Skin discoloration
- Swollen glands
It is difficult to prevent the disease because the cause of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is still unknown. However, we do know that Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia occurs when the body overproduces IgM antibodies. If you believe you may be experiencing the symptoms listed above, speak to your doctor. Diagnosis will involve a series of steps and tests that can include blood tests, a bone marrow biopsy, CT scans, or X-rays of bones or soft tissue.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease. However, it is possible to control symptoms through treatment. Similar to the symptoms of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, there are a variety of treatment options depending on the condition of the patient. Speak to your doctor for finding a treatment that works best for you. In order to take the next steps towards controlling your symptoms, you will need to learn about treatment options.
The following includes a few treatment options:
This treatment option helps destroy cells in the body that grow quickly. More specifically, chemotherapy targets the abnormal cells. Chemotherapy for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia attacks the abnormal cells that produce the excess IgM.
Also known as biological therapy, biotherapy is a treatment option that boosts the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. In addition, biotherapy can be used with chemotherapy.
Also known as plasma exchange, plasmapheresis is a process that involves several steps. Plasmapheresis is a procedure that involves removing the excess proteins (IgM immunoglobulin’s) that are found in the plasma. A machine takes the excess proteins from the blood. Then, the remaining plasma is combined with donor plasma and finally returned to the body.
Surgery is always a possibility if your doctor recommends to completely remove the spleen. This surgery is called a splenectomy. Although this procedure can reduce symptoms, it may lead to more infections. The spleen filters blood and helps the body fight infections. People without spleens are more prone to infections. Unfortunately, even after the spleen is removed it is possible for symptoms of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia to return.
Clinical trials is another option. Research involves experiments or observations. Clinical trials offer a way to test and investigate new treatments. If you are interested in new medications and procedures that treat Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, ask your doctor about clinical trials.
Although there are various treatment options, it is important to get a professional opinion. Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is not curable, but it is treatable. Control your symptoms by speaking with a doctor you trust to find the right treatment option for you.