Treating Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia

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:

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.

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.

Making treatment decisions

It’s important to discuss all treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, so you can make the decision that best fits your needs. You may feel that you need to make a decision quickly, but it’s important to give yourself time to absorb the information you have learned. Ask your cancer care team questions. You can find some good questions to ask in Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia.

Getting a second opinion

You may want to get a second opinion. This can give you more information and help you feel more certain about the treatment plan you choose. If you aren’t sure where to go for a second opinion, ask your doctor for help.

Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they're not right for everyone.

If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. See Clinical Trials to learn more.

Considering complementary and alternative methods

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.

Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See Complementary and Alternative Medicine to learn more.

Choosing to stop treatment or choosing no treatment at all

For some people, when treatments have been tried and are no longer controlling the cancer, it could be time to weigh the benefits and risks of continuing to try new treatments. Whether or not you continue treatment, there are still things you can do to help maintain or improve your quality of life. Learn more in If Cancer Treatments Stop Working.

Some people, especially if the cancer is advanced, might not want to be treated at all. There are many reasons you might decide not to get cancer treatment, but it’s important to talk to your doctors and you make that decision. Remember that even if you choose not to treat the cancer, you can still get supportive care. to help with pain or other symptoms?.

Help getting through cancer treatment

Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.

The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.

The treatment information given here is not official policy of the American Cancer Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor. Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.