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This chronic form of lymphoma affects blood lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Waldenström's macroglobulinemia cancer cells are similar to cancer cells in multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In Waldenström’s, the body produces too much of a protein called immunoglobulin M (IgM). When this protein builds up, the blood can become thick. This makes it difficult for the blood to move through the blood vessels.
Waldenström's macroglobulinemia cells can grow in the liver, spleen and lymph nodes, causing them to swell. They also can grow in the bone marrow, crowding out normal cells. When this happens, levels of red blood cells (which carry oxygen through the body) or white blood cells (which help the body fight infection) may fall. Levels of platelets, a type of blood cell needed to stop bleeding, also may fall.
According to the American Cancer Society, about six people per 1 million get the disease each year in this country. Between 1,000 and 1,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia annually. Waldenström's mainly strikes people age 65 and over. It is found most often in white men.
Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia risk factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia cancer is a risk factor. Although Waldenström’s has no proven risk factors, certain things seem to make you more likely to develop it.
- Age: People over age 50 get Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia more often.
- Race: Waldenström’s is more common in white people.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia.
- Family history of Waldenström’s or another type of lymphoma
Not everyone with risk factors gets Waldenström’s. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.
Learn more about Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia:
Why choose MD Anderson for Waldenström's macroglobulinemia treatment?
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.
We're here to meet our patients where they are and journey with them.
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