Question: My Grandpop was diagnosed with Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia. It is a rare cancer that travels through the blood stream and it is like Leukemia. He had many blood transfusions and his white blood cells were replaced. It then lead to frontal lobe dementia. He had no motivation to talk or eat. Waldenstrom is not meant to shorten your life, but he was admited into a nursing home for 18 months, and then passed away when he was 71. He was the healthiest man I ever knew! Could this have been avoided and is there anything new to help others with this cancer?
Keywords: blood, cancer, cells, dementia, frontal, leukemia, lobe, macroglobulinemia, rare, transfusions, waldenstrom
Hi @tmarshall.Thank you for your question,it’s been on my mind a lot.
First of all,I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather.It must have been a difficult time for you and your family.
Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia (WM for short) is a very rare cancer as you say, it forms in immune cells that travel through the bloodstream. It results in the over production of a certain kind of antibody which makes the blood very viscous and sticky. This is why patients with WM have to have plasmapheresis and transfusions, so that the organs can function normally. I’m afraid there isn’t a lot known about how the disease forms. It’s an unusual kind of cancer, it grows very slowly and half of the people who are diagnosed with it are 63 and over. So age may play a part in its development. It’s likely that WM has a strong genetic component, that is, there seems to be some genetic predisposition to the disease as scientists have found that it runs in some families. Having a genetic predisposition to a disease doesn’t mean that disease will develop, but it increases the likelihood that it might develop if there are other contributing factors.
It could be that over time – a very long time in WM as it’s very slow- the immune cells acquire many kinds of mutations that eventually result in this cancer. As we grow older, cells divide and each time, if there are any mistakes in the division there are proteins that correct any mistakes in the copied DNA and tell the cell to stop dividing when necessary. Sometimes these proteins may be damaged over time or the DNA is mutated. This is a normal process of ageing, which is why the risk of cancer increases with age. So that, combined with genetic factors, may be a cause of WM. But as I said, we don’t really know what the cause is.
As we grow older, our organ systems also grow older and wear out a bit. So natural ageing of the body means that it’s harder to fight disease. We need to look for more treatments specific to WM and to find the causes. We should determine if there is a genetic component , so we can test for it and that can help us diagnose the disease early on. Early detection of cancer is very important.
It sounds as if your grandfather lived a healthy life and that is pretty much all we can do to prevent cancer. I’m sorry I can’t give you more information .