Unsure about a term or trying to decipher an acronym?

Our Glossary of terms you may encounter on your WM journey is here to help. The Glossary is alphabetised, so just scroll down to find the term you’re looking for.

Active monitoring – When your doctor regularly checks your health, but you aren’t on any treatment for your WM. This might happen when your symptoms are manageable or you don’t have symptoms at all. Some hospitals might refer to this as ‘watch and wait’ or ‘active surveillance’.

Anaemia – A condition caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells in your body. Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, headaches and pale skin.

Antibody – Produced by B-cells (a type of white blood cell) to fight infection in the body. Also known as immunoglobulins.

B-cells – A type of white blood cell. They develop into plasma cells which produce antibodies to fight infection. In people with WM, B-cells develop incorrectly, causing the common symptoms of the disease.

Beta-2 microglobulin – A type of protein that doctors can test to measure the severity of your WM

Blood viscosity – The thickness of your blood. People with WM often have thicker – or ‘stickier’ – blood because of the increased amount of the antibody IgM in their system.

Bone marrow – The tissue found in the centre of your largest bones where blood cells are created. WM is a cancer that starts in the bone marrow, when B-cells develop incorrectly.

Bone marrow aspiration – A procedure where some of your liquid bone marrow is taken from the centre of the bone. This is usually done at the same time as a bone marrow trephine, as a part of a bone marrow biopsy.

Bone marrow biopsy – Samples of bone marrow are taken and examined for signs of abnormal B-cells. This is the only definitive way to diagnose WM. Read more about what is involved in a bone marrow biopsy

Bone marrow trephine – A procedure where a small part of the solid bone marrow tissue is taken from the centre of the bone. This is usually done in at the same time as a bone marrow aspiration, as a part of a bone marrow biopsy.

Computerised tomography (CT) scan – X-rays and a specially developed camera are used together to create images of the inside of the body. CT scans are useful to see organs and other soft tissues, and help doctors see if your WM has spread to other parts of the body. Read more about having a CT scan.

Full blood count (FBC) – A type of blood test that checks your levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Hyperviscosity – A symptom of WM, where the blood becomes thicker (more viscous) and stickier. This is caused by increased amounts of abnormal B-cells which overproduce a type of antibody called IgM. This overproduction of IgM is what makes the blood thicker. Hyperviscosity can cause headaches, blurred vision, nosebleeds, dizziness and shortness of breath, amongst other symptoms.

IgM – A type of antibody produced by B-cells. IgM is the largest of the five types of antibody, and it helps the body to fight infections. In people with WM, the body produces abnormal quantities of IgM, leading to hyperviscosity and symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, confusion and shortness of breath.

Immune system – Protects your body from infection. Certain white blood cells – lymphocytes – recognise the cells that belong in your body and try to get rid of any that don’t, like germs. In people with WM, a type of lymphocytes, the B-cells, start to develop incorrectly.

Immunoglobulin – Another word for antibody. These cells fight infection in your body. There are five types of immunoglobulin: IgM, IgG, IgA, IgE and IgD. In people with WM, the body overproduces IgM, causing the common symptoms of the disease.

Lymph nodes – Key ‘check-points’ in the lymphatic system, also known as lymph glands. They are small structures, located all over your body. You might be able to feel some of the lymph nodes that are closer to the surface of your skin, like in your neck. They trap germs and use their stores of infection-fighting lymphocytes to get rid of these cells and trigger the rest of the immune system into action. This is why when you are ill, you find your lymph nodes swell. Some people affected by WM might find that their lymph nodes swell even when they aren’t ill. This is because the abnormal B-cells produced by the body start to gather in the lymph nodes, causing them to react and swell.

Lymphatic system – A network of tubes, tissues and organs spread throughout your body, which helps to fight infection. It also helps to transport fats and vitamins from your digestive system into your blood.

Lymphocytes – A type of white blood cell that acts as your immune system’s memory. If you have had an infection before, your lymphocytes will quickly recognise and fight the infection again. Lymphocytes are an important part in giving you immunity. There are three types of lymphocyte: B-cells , T-cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. In people with WM, the B-cells (or B lymphocytes) develop incorrectly.

Lymphoma – A type of blood cancer that develop in the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). There are many different types of lymphoma, affecting different types of lymphocytes and different parts of the body. WM is a rare type of lymphoma.

Lymphoplasmacytic cells (LPL cells) – In people with WM, B-cells (a type of white blood cell) develop incorrectly. These cells are known as lymphoplasmacytic cells (LPL cells) because the cells look like lymphocytes and also like plasma cells.

Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (LPL) – A rare type of lymphoma where B-cells (a type of white blood cell) develop incorrectly. Although WM and LPL are often used interchangeably, they do differ. WM is a type of LPL. Both people with LPL and WM will have abnormal B-cells (lymphoplasmacytic cells). People with WM have higher than normal levels of abnormal antibody IgM. For every 20 people with LPL cells, 19 have WM and only 1 will have lymphoplasmacytc lymphoma. Read more about LPL.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) – A type of lymphoma that isn’t Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma contain abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells, whereas Non-Hodgkin lymphomas do not have these cells. There are many distinct types of NHL, of which WM is one.

Plasma – a liquid in the blood that carries important cells used for blood clotting, and fighting infections by producing antibodies. B-cells (a type of white blood cell) develop into plasma cells. In people with WM, the B-cells develop incorrectly and turn into lymphoplasmacytic cells (LPL cells) instead of plasma cells, making it harder for your body to fight infection.

Platelets – A type of blood cell that stops bleeding. When you have WM, these cells can be crowded out by abnormal white blood cells. This means you might find yourself bruising easily.

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan – A type of scan where a special camera will pick up a harmless radioactive sugar that is injected into your body. Most cancer cells will use up far more of the sugar than normal cells and therefore show up on the camera. This helps doctors tell if your WM has spread to other parts of the body. Read more about having a PET scan.

Radiotracer – The harmless radioactive sugar injected into your body before you have PET scan.

Red blood cells – A type of blood cell that carries oxygen around your body. In people with WM, healthy developing red cells can be crowded out by abnormal white blood cells, which can cause WM symptoms like anaemia.

Serum immunoglobulin – a type of blood test that measures the levels of antibodies in your body.

Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia (WM) – A rare type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that develops in a type of blood cell called a B-cell. It is defined by the abnormal amounts of an antibody called IgM.

Watch and wait – usually referred to as Active Monitoring when your team is monitoring your health and your WM, without treating it. This usually happens when your WM symptoms are either manageable without treatment, or you don’t have symptoms at all.

White blood cells – A type of blood cell that helps fight infection in the blood. There are many types of white blood cells, including B-cells which, in people with WM, develop incorrectly.