Myelofibrosis: The Basics
Myelofibrosis is a group of cancers that affect the bone marrow. In these cancers the marrow is replaced by scar tissue which leads to the body not being able to make healthy blood cells. It is a type of chronic leukemia.
The risks include:
- Aging, most people are over age 50 when diagnosed
- Exposure to chemicals like benzene, toluene, and radiation
- Genetic mutation in the bone marrow
At this time there are no screening tests for myelofibrosis.
Signs of Myelofibrosis
Often, there are no signs of myelofibrosis but there will be a change in lab values. If a person is having signs of myelofibrosis they are from a low blood cell count(s) and can be:
- Low red blood cell count which can make a person tired, pale, shortness of breath, have chest pain and dizziness
- Weight loss
- Low-grade fevers
- Night sweats
- Enlarged spleen and/or liver
Diagnosis of Myelofibrosis
Your provider will ask you about your health history and do a full 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 handle symptoms of low blood cell counts and to keep the disease from becoming a more aggressive type of leukemia. Because of this, there are a number of treatments.
- Targeted therapies
- Androgen therapy and erythropoietin can both improve anemia
- Hydroxyurea can decrease the size of the spleen and control white blood cell and platelet counts
- Remove the spleen
- Stem cell transplant
This article is a basic guide to myelofibrosis. You can learn more about your type of myelofibrosis and treatment by using the links below.