Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) is a cancer of the B lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). WM is associated with the overproduction of proteins called IgM antibodies.
Waldenström macroglobulinemia; Macroglobulinemia - primary; Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma; Monoclonal macroglobulinemia; Waldenström macroglobulinemia
WM is a result of a condition called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma. This is a cancer of the white blood cells, in which the B immune cells start dividing rapidly. The exact cause of too much production of the IgM antibody is unknown. Hepatitis C may increase the risk of WM. Gene mutations are often found in the malignant B cells.
Production of excess IgM antibodies can cause several types of problems:
WM is very rare. Most people with this condition are over 65 years of age.
Symptoms of WM may include any of the following:
Some people with WM who have increased IgM antibodies do not have symptoms. This condition is known as smoldering WM. No treatment is needed other than careful follow-up.
In people with symptoms, treatment aims at decreasing the symptoms and the risk of developing organ damage. There is no current standard treatment. Your health care provider may suggest that you participate in a clinical trial.
Plasmapheresis removes IgM antibodies from the blood. It also controls the symptoms caused by blood thickening.
Medicines may include corticosteroids, a combination of chemotherapy medicines and the monoclonal antibody to B cells, rituximab.
Autologous stem cell transplant may be recommended for some people with otherwise good health.
People who have a low number of red or white blood cells or platelets may need transfusions or antibiotics.
The average survival is about 5 years. Some people live more than 10 years.
In some people, the disorder may produce few symptoms and progress slowly.
Complications of WM may include:
Contact your provider if symptoms of WM develop.
Published Date: April 19, 2022
Published By: Diane M. Horowitz, MD, Rheumatology and Internal Medicine, Northwell Health, Great Neck, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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