Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival rates for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some people with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM) may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you decide that you do not want to read the survival statistics for WM, skip to the next section.

5-year survival rates

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years.

Five-year relative survival rates assume that some people with WM will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without WM. This is a better way to see the impact of the cancer on survival.

To get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. There have been many improvements in the treatment of WM in recent years, so people now being diagnosed with WM may have a better outlook than would be expected based on the numbers below.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database (based on people diagnosed between 2001 and 2010), the overall relative 5-year survival of people with WM is about 78%.

The group that created the International Prognostic Scoring System for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia (ISSWM) used data from about 600 patients with WM who were diagnosed and treated before January 2002 to develop their risk groups:

    risk group

    5-year survival rate







Median survival

Median survival is another way to look at survival. It is the length of time at which half of the patients in a group are still alive, and half have died. By definition, half of the patients live longer than the median survival. The group that developed the ISSWM used data from WM patients diagnosed and treated before January 2002 and found the following:

    risk group

    Median survival*


    12 years


    8 years


    3.5 years

*Median survival is measured from the point that treatment is started.

Survival rates are based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen with any particular person. They don’t take into account all of the factors that can affect a person’s outlook, such as how well the cancer responds to treatment. Your doctor knows your situation best and can tell you how the numbers above might apply to you.

Last Medical Review: 10/20/2014
Last Revised: 01/28/2015