Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (mak-roe-glob-u-lih-NEE-me-uh) is a rare type of cancer that begins in the white blood cells.

If you have Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, your bone marrow produces too many abnormal white blood cells that crowd out healthy blood cells. The abnormal white blood cells produce a protein that accumulates in the blood, impairs circulation and causes complications.

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is considered a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It's sometimes called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.

  • Collaboration. At Mayo Clinic, a multidisciplinary team of experts provides whole-person care to those with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Your care team may include hematologists, pathologists, radiologists, nephrologists and neurologists. Other experts are included as needed.
  • Experience. Mayo Clinic doctors have experience diagnosing and treating this rare disease. Each year, Mayo Clinic doctors care for more than 400 people with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.
  • Access to the latest. Mayo Clinic researchers are actively involved in studying new ways to diagnose and treat Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. This research gives you accesses to the latest treatments.
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At Mayo Clinic, a multidisciplinary team of experts provides whole-person care for those with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Your team may include experts in hematology/oncology, laboratory medicine and pathology, radiology, nephrology and hypertension, and neurology. Other experts are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic, a multidisciplinary team of experts provides whole-person care for those with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Your team may include experts in hematology/oncology, laboratory medicine and pathology, radiology, nephrology and hypertension, and neurology. Other experts are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic, a multidisciplinary team of experts provides whole-person care for those with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Your team may include experts in hematology, laboratory medicine and pathology, radiology, nephrology and hypertension, and neurology. Other experts are included as needed.

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Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is slow growing and may not cause signs and symptoms for many years. When they do occur, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Bleeding from the nose or the gums
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Numbness in your hands or feet
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hearing problems
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion

Mayo Clinic doctors are experienced in diagnosing Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. They have access to the latest procedures and laboratory tools to diagnose the disease and understand your prognosis.

Tests and procedures used to diagnose Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia include:

  • Blood tests. Blood tests may reveal low numbers of healthy blood cells. Also, blood tests are used to detect the proteins produced by the cancer cells (immunoglobulin M, or IgM). Blood tests may also measure your organ function, which can tell your doctor whether the IgM proteins are affecting your organs, such as your kidneys and your liver.
  • Bone marrow biopsy. During a bone marrow biopsy your doctor uses a needle to extract some of your bone marrow from your hipbone. The sample is examined to look for cancer cells. If any are detected, advanced laboratory analysis can help doctors understand the cancer cells' characteristics, including their genetic mutations.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests can help your doctor determine whether cancer has spread to other areas of your body. Imaging tests may include computerized tomography (CT) scans or positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

At Mayo Clinic, a multidisciplinary team of experts works together with you to understand your condition and create a treatment plan that meets your needs and goals. Though this rare disease can't be cured, it can be controlled. Mayo Clinic doctors draw on their extensive experience to provide you with expert, whole-person care.

Treatment options for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia may include:

  • Observation. If IgM proteins are found in your blood, but you don't have any signs or symptoms, you may choose to wait before beginning treatment. Your doctor may recommend blood tests every few months to monitor your condition. You may go years without needing further treatment.
  • Plasma exchange. If you experience signs and symptoms related to having too many IgM proteins in your blood, your doctor may recommend plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) to remove the proteins and replace them with healthy blood plasma.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that kills quickly growing cells, such as the abnormal blood cells produced by Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.
  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy drugs kill cancer cells by focusing on the specific abnormalities present in the cancer cells that allow them to survive.
  • Biological therapy. Biological therapy drugs use your immune system to kill cancer cells.
  • Stem cell transplant. In certain highly selected situations, a stem cell transplant may be used to treat Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. During this procedure, your diseased bone marrow is replaced with healthy bone marrow.
  • Clinical trials. Clinical trials give you a chance to try the latest in Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia treatment.

Clinical trials are research studies that test new ways to detect, prevent or treat disease. Mayo Clinic conducts more than 3,000 clinical trials and research studies each year and often coordinates national clinical trials with other medical centers.

Learn more about clinical trials and whether Mayo Clinic may be conducting a clinical trial related to your condition or procedure.

Mayo Clinic doctors and scientists are studying ways to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Learn more about hematology research.

Cancer research is conducted in coordination with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center receives funding from the National Cancer Institute and is designated as a comprehensive cancer center — recognition for an institution's scientific excellence and multidisciplinary resources focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Aug. 21, 2015