Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells that is also known as Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia. It is a cancer that generally grows and spreads slowly.
A unique characteristic of lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma is that it produces proteins that thicken the blood. This leads to hyperviscosity syndrome and is the cause of many complications related to lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.
It is a fairly rare form of cancer with approximately 1,500 cases each year diagnosed in the United States. In most of these cases the patient is 60 – 65 years old. While it is not curable, lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma is treatable.
How does it work?
Treatment for lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma works to either treat the disease or to treat the symptoms. Depending on the diagnosis treatment can range from a “watch and wait” approach to the patient needing emergency blood transfusions.
There are two main systems used to diagnose lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma. These are Treon and mSMART. Symptoms of lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and non-stop bleeding from the nose and gums.
The focus of lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma treatment is to treat the patient only when the cancer is causing problems or is interfering with other systems in the body. Since treatment often involves the use of medications with adverse side effects, the longer a patient can go without needing treatment, it is believed the better off they will be.
The types of treatment for lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma include watchful waiting, first-line defenses, salvage treatment, and bone marrow transplants. Although watchful waiting was encouraged in the past some physicians are moving away from this approach.
Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma can be fatal and there are those who believe that treatment should begin immediately. Some specific medications and therapies that might be used include Rituximab, purine nucleoside analogues, alkylating agents, high dose chemotherapy, and bortezomib.
As with any medications or treatments the side effects depend largely on the patient. In general, the better health the patient is in to begin with, the better their body will respond to treatment. Patients receiving chemotherapy can expect side effects such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and depression of their immune system.
Recent studies show that patients being treated for lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma can expect a 10-year survival rate. This is up from five years. The improvement is attributed to improved testing and diagnosis, as well as patients receiving earlier treatments.