Macroglobulinemia is one type of cancer belongs to the category of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is indeed a slow cancer that attacks the immune system of the body.
Abnormal white blood corpuscles (lymphocytes) make a protein called monoclonal immunoglobulin (IgM) which is responsible for thickening of plasma. This in turn causes macroglobulinemia. When this protein is secreted in excess quantity, it affects the blood thickness, making it very thick.
This disorder is caused mainly due to the thickening of blood plasma due to the condition of lymphophlasmacytic lymphoma. There will be excess production of IgM protein in the blood which is due to the lymphoma cells.
The blood becomes so thick (this condition is called hypervisocisity) that it cannot normally flow through tiny blood vessels.
This problem largely occurs in elderly persons but there are young people who suffer from this condition.
Some of the major symptoms of Macroglobulinemia are bleeding of gums, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fatigue, headache, change in mental status, bleeding in nose, numbness associated with tingling of fingers, toes and hands, skin rash, weight loss and partial vision loss.
Apart from the above, there would be change in skin color and fingers color for some people. There would be intense pain in the joints and swollen glands.
The doctor may first physically examine the body of the patient. He would then ask for laboratory tests for measuring blood profile which indicates the presence of IgM protein. He may ask the person to undergo biopsy on bone marrow for detecting the changes in lymphocytes.
It does not mean that all the persons who have IgM protein require immediate treatment. There are so many people who live without any symptoms and without taking any treatment for this problem. Treatment method depends on the intensity of symptoms and severity of the disorder.
Chemotherapy is done for destroying the abnormal cells so that bone marrow will not get disturbed anymore. It is also preferred by many patients to reduce the level of IgM protein in blood. Chemotherapy is given either intravenously or in the form of oral pills.
Plasma exchange is another method of treating this disorder. In this mode, unwanted IgM protein is washed out of the bloodstream so that the blood protein level is normalized, thus reducing the thickness. It requires 2-3 sessions for completing the course of treatment.
Biotherapy method is combined with chemotherapy to boost the immunity level to fight cancerous cells. Bone marrow transplantation needs to be done for some cases, depending on the condition of the disease.
Through the process of plasmapheresis unwanted elements of protein can be removed from the blood. This method can quickly control the IgM protein level in blood.
Drugs that are given for macroglobulinemia are Alkeran, Leukeran, rituximab, fludarabine or cytoxan. Many times, drugs are given in combination with chemotherapy.
It is necessary to follow up with your doctor in the right time till the course of treatment is completed. He would perform coagulation tests for checking the viscosity of blood and to monitor the levels of IgM protein in blood plasma.