Complementary Therapies for Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on April 26, 2023
4 min read

Chemotherapy, targeted drugs, and biologics can all be part of the treatment for Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia (WM). You might also want to try complementary therapies like yoga, massage, or acupuncture.

Complementary therapies don't replace WM treatments. They're not meant to shrink or cure your cancer. Instead, they work alongside treatment to reduce side effects like fatigue and nausea, relieve stress, and help you feel better overall. Complementary therapy is often part of palliative care, which focuses on symptom relief during cancer treatment.

Studies haven't looked at complementary therapies specifically for WM. But there is evidence that these treatments improve quality of life in people with different types of cancer.

Talk to your doctor before you try any complementary therapy to make sure that it's safe and that it won't interfere with your cancer treatment. Choose health care professionals who are experienced and qualified to care for people with cancer.

Stress is part of living with cancer. Mind-body medicine techniques like meditation and yoga use deep breathing and gentle movements to ease stress and help you relax. Many hospitals and cancer centers offer classes on these practices.

In people with cancer, yoga and meditation might help:

  • Improve quality of life
  • Curb fatigue
  • Ease anxiety

Before you try yoga or any other exercise program, check with your doctor to make sure that it's safe for you. You may need to adapt the movements to your abilities and energy level.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. A practitioner puts thin needles into different parts of your body.

Studies show that acupuncture can help with cancer-related fatigue and with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. Scientists have studied it for cancer pain too, but there isn't enough evidence to show that it works.

Acupuncture is safe for healthy people, although rarely it can cause side effects like pain, bleeding, and infection. These side effects can be riskier in people with WM because they may have low blood cell counts from the cancer. Low platelets can raise your odds of bleeding. Low white blood cells could make you more likely to catch an infection.

This hands-on technique applies pressure to your body to loosen up tight muscles, ease stress and soreness, and help you relax. There's some evidence that regular foot massages lessen pain and lead to better sleep in people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia is a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Massage has few risks, and the benefits include reduced anxiety, fatigue, and nausea. Still, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before you try this treatment, and see a massage therapist who has experience working with people who have cancer.

Staying active can help you feel better during your treatment. A daily walk or bike ride can boost your energy level, improve your strength, and reduce stress.

Leg and ankle exercises can also be helpful. WM thickens the blood, which can cause lumps called clots to form. If a clot blocks blood flow to your hands, feet, or brain, it could cause serious problems. Moving your legs and ankles each day helps to prevent blood clots. Your doctor or a physical therapist can show you how to do these exercises.

People with cancer need the same amount of exercise as everyone else -- 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobics, plus 2 days of strength, flexibility, and balance exercises. You may need to adjust your routine on days when you feel tired or sick. Before you start any new fitness program, ask your doctor which types of exercises and intensity level are safest for you.

You may want to avoid certain activities. Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia can lower your red and white blood cell count, which could increase your risk for bleeding and infection. Avoid contact sports where you could injure yourself. Stay away from places where you might catch an infection, such as public swimming pools or gyms.

Low red blood cells and chemotherapy treatment can leave you short of breath. If you have trouble breathing when you exercise, stop and check with your doctor.

A healthy diet is the best way to get your nutrients, but taste changes and nausea from your treatments could make it harder for you to eat well-balanced meals. Ask your doctor whether you should take a supplement if you're low in certain vitamins or minerals.

There's no evidence that any vitamin, mineral, or herbal supplement can slow your cancer or improve your outcome. And some dietary supplements might cause side effects or interact with your cancer medicine. Don't take any supplement without first asking the doctor who treats your cancer.