Treating Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia
General information about treatment
Once Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM) has been diagnosed, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Your options may be affected by factors such as your age and general health and the type of symptoms you are having.
Not everyone with WM needs to be treated right away. People who don’t have serious or bothersome symptoms can often be watched closely, and then treated later if needed (see “When to treat people with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia”).
If treatment is needed for WM, several types can be used:
- Targeted drugs
- Biological therapy (immunotherapy)
- Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange)
- High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant
- Radiation therapy
The 2 main ways to treat WM are chemotherapy and different types of biological therapy (immunotherapy). Based on the situation, one or both of these types of treatments might be used.
In recent years, much progress has been made in treating people with WM. A number of newer drugs have been found to work against WM, but few studies have compared them to see which ones are best. Because of this, there is no single standard treatment for all patients.
It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options and their possible side effects with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask your doctor about Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?”
In choosing a treatment plan, consider your health, your symptoms, and what you hope to get from treatment. Be sure that you understand all the risks and side effects of your treatment options before making a decision.
Based on your treatment options, you might have different types of doctors on your treatment team:
- A hematologist: a doctor who treats disorders of the blood, including lymphomas such as WM
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with chemotherapy and other medicines
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy
Many other specialists might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.
If time permits, it’s often a good idea to get a second opinion. This can give you more information and help you feel confident about the treatment plan you choose. Your doctor should be willing to help you find another cancer doctor who can give you a second opinion.
The next few sections describe the types of treatments used for WM. This is followed by a discussion of the typical treatment options for someone with WM.