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About WM

Causes and Risk Factors


There is no definitely known cause of WM. As is the case with most cancers, there are probably multiple risk factors involved – some may be inherited predisposing genetic factors and some may be due to environmental or occupational exposures during one’s lifetime.

What is WM/LPL?

Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (WM) is a lymphoma, or cancer of the lymphatic system. It is sometimes referred to as a lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (LPL) with an associated monoclonal IgM paraprotein. The disease occurs in a type of white blood cell called a B-lymphocyte or B-cell, which normally matures into a plasma cell whose job is to manufacture immunoglobulins (antibodies) to help the body fight infection.

Bone Marrow Biopsy

The bone marrow biopsy (BMB) is the definitive test for confirming the diagnosis of WM.

This procedure can be performed in a physician’s office or in a monitored setting (such as a hospital) under local anesthetic or light sedation. The specimen is usually obtained from the posterior iliac crest (back of the hip bone) by using a large-bore needle, although in some cases it may be taken from the sternum (breast bone) or other bones.

Both a liquid bone marrow sample (bone marrow aspiration) and a solid bone sample (bone marrow biopsy) may be taken during the procedure. 

Blood Tests

One of the primary means of assessing a WM patient’s disease status is periodic blood testing. Among the more common test sets are the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), Complete Blood Count (CBC), and Immunoglobulins.

Each of the sets serves a specific purpose, as detailed below. There are several items in each set; explanations of each item, along with their typical reference ranges of normal values are provided in further detail in PDF format.

Glossary of Terms

Below are some useful common terms that you may find in lab reports, hear your oncologist use, or read in medical articles about Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia. 

Terms are also available in the glossaries of the IWMF booklets entitled Basic Immunology and Questions and Answers, which are located on this website in IWMF Publications

Understanding Clinical Trials

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies in human volunteers, with the goal of developing better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat a disease. Cancer clinical trials may include new drugs, new surgical or radiation therapy techniques, new combinations of treatments, and revolutionary methods such as gene therapy.

Why are clinical trials necessary?

Living with WM

Because WM is typically an indolent (slow growing) cancer, it is possible to achieve a good quality of life for long periods while living with the disease. The following are useful suggestions, many of them common-sense items, to help patients cope physically and emotionally with WM and improve their overall health status while doing so.


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