Myelofibrosis: The Basics
Myelofibrosis (MF) is a group of cancers that affect your bone marrow. In these cancers, the marrow is replaced by scar tissue. This makes it hard for your body to make healthy blood cells. It is a type of chronic leukemia.
The risks are:
- Age. Most people are over age 50 when diagnosed.
- Having been around chemicals like benzene, toluene, and radiation.
- A genetic mutation (change) in your bone marrow.
There are no screening tests for myelofibrosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Myelofibrosis
There are often no symptoms of myelofibrosis, but there is a change in your bloodwork. If you have signs or symptoms of myelofibrosis, they are due to low blood cell count(s). These can be:
- Low red blood cell count. This can make you tired, pale, feel short of breath, have chest pain, and dizziness.
- Weight loss.
- Low-grade fevers.
- Night sweats.
- Your spleen and/or liver is larger than normal.
Diagnosis of Myelofibrosis
Your provider will ask you about your health history and do a physical exam. Blood tests such as a complete blood count and peripheral blood smear will be done to check your blood counts. Molecular testing and a bone marrow biopsy will also be done.
The goal of treating myelofibrosis is to lessen the symptoms of low blood cell counts. This is called supportive care. Treatment also aims to keep the disease from becoming a more aggressive type of leukemia. Because of this, there are a few treatments:
- Targeted therapies.
- Supportive care medicines, like erythropoietin, hydroxyurea, androgen therapy (oxymetholone, danazol), and bisphosphonates (Aredia, Zometa).
- Remove the spleen.
- Stem cell transplant.
This article is a basic guide to myelofibrosis. You can learn more about myelofibrosis at the link below:
Deisseroth, A., Kaminskas, E., Grillo, J., Chen, W., Saber, H., Lu, H. L., ... & Bullock, J. (2012). US Food and Drug Administration approval: ruxolitinib for the treatment of patients with intermediate and high-risk myelofibrosis. Clinical Cancer Research, 18(12), 3212-3217.
Tefferi, A., Guglielmelli, P., Larson, D. R., Finke, C., Wassie, E. A., Pieri, L., ... & Ketterling, R. P. (2014). Long-term survival and blast transformation in molecularly annotated essential thrombocythemia, polycythemia vera, and myelofibrosis. Blood,124(16), 2507-2513.
World Health Organization (2016). Diagnostic criteria for primary myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera, and essential thrombocytopenia. Retrieved from https://www.mpnconnect.com/pdf/who-diagnostic-criteria-mf-pv-et.pdf