Because MD Anderson's Lymphoma and Myeloma Center is one of the nation's most-active programs, with a reputation as a leading center for lymphoma treatment, we have a remarkable level of expertise and experience with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia.
While many cancer doctors see only a couple of cases of this rare type of lymphoma during their entire careers, we treat hundreds each year. This experience is backed by a long history of developing treatments for lymphomas. And we are leading toward the future by investigating new ways to treat and diagnose Waldenström's, including targeted and biologic therapies that are available at a handful of places in this country.
Waldenström's macroglobulinemia is a chronic type of lymphoma that may be treated over an extended period of time. At MD Anderson, you are followed closely by a team of experts that includes physicians of several specialties, nurses, dietitians, social workers and many other specially trained support specialists. They collaborate closely and personalize your care to fit your unique situation.
In some cases, people can have Waldenström's macroglobulinemia for years without showing any symptoms. When signs appear, most are caused by low blood counts or thickened blood. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include:
These symptoms do not always mean you have Waldenström's macroglobulinemia. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, since they may also signal other health problems.
Early and accurate diagnosis of Waldenström's macroglobulinemia helps you have the highest chance for successful treatment. However, the disease can be challenging to diagnose. It is important for a pathologist experienced in Waldenström's to read your test results.
Since our experts focus on lymphoma and see more patients than most cancer centers, they are among the most experienced in the country at recognizing Waldenström's macroglobulinemia. These specialists use the most advanced technology and techniques to pinpoint Waldenström's.
If you have symptoms that may signal Waldenström's, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health and your family medical history.
One or more of the following tests may be used to find out if you have Waldenström's and if it has spread. These tests also may be used to find out if treatment is working.
Lymph node biopsy: A small piece of tissue is removed from a lymph node and looked at with a microscope. Sometimes the entire node is removed.
Imaging tests, which may include:
Blood and urine tests: Blood and urine tests are used to determine and follow levels of abnormal proteins produced by Waldenström's macroglobulinemia. In the blood, these proteins are called monoclonal proteins (M proteins) or paraproteins. They are measured by a test called serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP). In the urine, these proteins are known as Bence Jones proteins. They are measured by a urine protein electrophoresis (UPEP) on a 24-hour sample of urine. An additional test, called an immunofixation (IFE) may help find small traces of abnormal proteins in either the blood or urine.
Because Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia is a slow-growing, chronic type of lymphoma, you may need care for an extended time. Your treatment may include a series of several therapies.
Working together and with you, our team of experts painstakingly plans your treatment, utilizing the most advanced and effective treatments, as well as therapies that help with side effects of the disease and treatment. Many times we are able to offer clinical trials (research studies) of new treatments for Waldenstrom's
Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you're at risk but don’t have symptoms. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for successful treatment are best.
Unfortunately, there are no screening tests that help diagnose Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia early. The best idea is to watch for symptoms, especially if you have risk factors that might make you more likely to develop Waldenstrom's.
Anything that increases your chance of getting Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia cancer is a risk factor. Although Waldenstrom's has no proven risk factors, certain things seem to make you more likely to develop it.
Not everyone with risk factors gets Waldenstrom's. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.
The exact cause of most cases of Waldenstrom's is not known. There are no known lifestyle changes to lower the risk of developing it.