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What is Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia (WM)?

What is WM
Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia (WM) is a rare type of blood cancer. It develops when some of the body’s white blood cells change and grow out of control.

Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia (WM) is sometimes called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma and is one of the family of cancers of the lymphatic system known as Non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL). Doctors may use any of these terms when discussing your WM with you.

It is a slow-growing cancer with its own distinct characteristics that require specialised treatment and care.

Jan Waldenström was the Swedish doctor who first described the disease in 1944 and lent it his name;  “macroglobulinaemia” refers to the high levels of immunoglobulin M (IgM) seen in the blood stream of 95% of WM patients.

IgM is natural, it is produced by B cells in the bone marrow to fight infection. However, in WM, defective ‘B’ cells produce large quantities of non-functional IgM paraproteins which are not useful to the body and can cause damage.

The Science behind Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia

Waldenstrom's macroglobulinamia (WM) arises when an abnormality occurs in B cells, as they are in the process of developing into plasma cells.

Read more about the science behind WM here.

Who is affected by Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia?

  • Around 400 people are diagnosed with WM each year in the UK
  • It is estimated that 4000 people are currently living with WM in the UK
  • Traditionally viewed as a disease that affects people over the age of 65, it is now increasingly seen in younger age groups
  • It is more common in men than women

What causes Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia?

The cause of Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia (WM) is still unknown. It is not infectious and cannot be passed onto other people.

Read more about what causes WM here.

Bing Neel syndome (BNS)

Bing Neel syndrome (BNS) is a rare complication of Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia (WM). The exact incidence is unknown, but it likely affects less than 10% of patients with Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia (WM).

Bing Neel syndrome occurs when Waldenstrom cells enter the brain, the fluid around the brain, or the spinal cord. It is currently not known why some WM patients get BNS and others do not, and we currently do not know of any ways to prevent it from occurring.

Read more about Bing Neel syndrome here.


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