Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a rare kind of blood cancer. The bone marrow makes too many abnormal white blood cells which crowd out healthy blood cells. These abnormal white blood cells produce a protein which accumulates in the blood, damages circulation and causes complications.
What is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?
Lymphocytes are the white blood cells that play a key role in fighting infections. Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that crowds out healthy white blood cells with excess production of abnormal cells.
What causes Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?
The exact cause of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is still unknown. Researchers think changes in DNA may trigger this health condition, especially genes like MYD88 and CXCR4. Genetic mutation is linked with excess production of WBCs in your body. Unlike healthy cells, cancerous cells produce an unusable protein in your body known as immunoglobulin M (IgM). This protein may lead to other complications caused by its accumulation in the blood.
What are the most common symptoms of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?
Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia may not cause noticeable symptoms for years. However, there are some common symptoms of this condition such as,
- Unexpected weight loss
- Feeling of numbness in extremities of your body
- Blurred vision
- Breathing issues
- Reduced levels of red blood cells
- Excessive night sweats
- Nose or gum bleeding
- Circulation related problems
When to see a doctor?
If you experience symptoms that do not go away and lead to other health complications, it is best to visit a doctor to get diagnosed with your health conditions.
How is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia diagnosed?
There are certain tests and procedures to diagnose this health condition.
- Blood test: Your doctor may ask you for a blood test to check the levels of white blood cells and other blood components. Blood tests may also help with diagnosis in case of any infection and presence of IgM protein.
- Bone marrow sample: Bone marrow produces white blood cells. Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is often indicated by excess production of WBCs. A sample of your bone marrow can be sent to the lab to analyze the presence of this health condition.
- Imaging tests: Imaging scanning tests like PET scans, MRI is often used to diagnose the presence of cancer in your body.
How is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia treated?
Here are the treatment options used in Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia:
- Chemotherapy: It is commonly used in cancer treatment. Depending upon your case, the doctor will prescribe the drugs that will limit cancer growth in your body. Chemotherapy is given often in combination with other drugs to manage the symptoms.
- Plasma therapy: The plasmapheresis procedure can be used to get rid of excess IgM protein in your body. It can permit space for healthy white blood cells and reduce complications of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.
- Bone marrow transplant: In severe cases, a bone marrow transplant may be used as a potential option to treat Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. This procedure often works with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy works to reduce the traces of cancer in your body, and healthy stem cells are introduced to your body, which helps build a healthy bone marrow.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is used to introduce drugs to the targeted part of your body. It is a more focused approach that is used to treat certain abnormalities of your cancer cells.
- Biological therapy: In this treatment option, a doctor suggests a biological drug as a part of cancer treatment. Biological drugs trigger your immune system to kill cancer.
- Latest Clinical trials: You can participate in the latest clinical trials that may be offering a new age and promising treatment option for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.
Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a slow type of cancer. Doctors often suggest a wait and watch approach if persistent symptoms are not present. However, it is recommended to consult with healthcare experts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia common in old age?
Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a rare type of cancer that may affect 1 in 3.4 million people. However, old age may increase your risk of developing this health condition.
Is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia curable?
There is no cure for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. However, it is a treatable health condition. With the right treatments, your quality of life can get better.
What is the survival rate for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?
There is a 5-year survival rate if you are diagnosed with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.
What is a 5-year survival rate?
Statistics on the outlook for a some type and stage of cancer are given often as 5-year survival rates. However, many people live longer, and often much longer than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is a percentage of people who live at least 5 years after getting a cancer diagnosis. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 90 percent generally means that an expected 90 out of 100 individuals who have that particular cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed.