Radiation Therapy for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. This type of treatment is not used often to treat Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM). Rarely, it is used to shrink an enlarged spleen or lymph nodes if they are causing symptoms.

The type of radiation therapy used to treat WM is called external beam radiation. The treatment is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is much stronger. The procedure itself is painless. Before the treatments start, the radiation team takes careful measurements to determine the correct angles for aiming the radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time — getting you into place for treatment — usually takes longer. Most often, radiation treatments are given 5 days a week for a few weeks.

Possible side effects

Immediate side effects of radiation therapy can include sunburn-like skin problems, fatigue, and low blood cell counts. Other side effects depend on the area being treated. Radiation of the abdomen may cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Radiation to the head and neck area can lead to mouth sores and trouble swallowing. Often these effects go away a short while after treatment is finished.

A rare long-term side effect of radiation is a new cancer developing in the treated area.

To learn more about radiation therapy, visit A Guide to Radiation Therapy.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: October 20, 2014 Last Revised: January 28, 2015

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