What is a myeloproliferative neoplasm?

MPNs are a group of rare blood cancers that overproduce blood cells in the bone marrow, and are caused by genetic mutations in the blood stem cells.

What is myelofibrosis?

Myelofibrosis is a rare bone marrow cancer.  It is one of the myeloproliferative neoplasms.  Bone marrow cells that produce blood cells develop and function abnormally resulting in fibrous scar tissue formation.

What is polycythemia vera?

Polycythemia Vera is one of the myeloproliferative disorders in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells.  It may also result in the production of too many other types of blood cells – white blood cells and platelets.  

What is essential thrombocythemia?

Essential Thrombocythemia causes the body to produce too many blood platelets-thrombocytes. It can cause abnormal clotting or bleeding.  The bone marrow makes too many platelet-forming cells or megakaryocytes, which release platelets into your blood.

Are men and women affected differently?

Men and women with MPNs may simply have different issues. For example: women may require special needs when pregnant or during menopause. More research needs to be spent on defining these differences and it is a subject matter MPN Advocacy and Education International discusses at all symposia.

What causes MF, PV, ET?

The most common cause of MPNs is an abnormal proliferation of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets which can be caused by genetic mutations (called acquired defects or mutations). Exposure to certain chemicals and high levels of radiation have been possible culprits however more research needs to be done.

Where can I learn more about the Common Blood Count (CBC)? 

Click here for a brief explanation.

Is there a cure for MPNs?

The only known cure for some patients is a bone marrow transplant.  This procedure is not recommended for everyone and many factors must be considered.  Other treatments are being tested and research is ongoing to find a cure.  Visit www.mpnresearchfoundation.org

How long will I live with an MPN?

Many MPN patients live long and productive lives.  Since 2005 when the JAK2 gene mutation was discovered, an avalanche of interest, research, and new drug development has emerged in the world of MPNs.  This event has created such a great awareness and focus in the field that more accurate information is available, more treatment options are available and more are on the horizon, and a better understanding of prevalence and survival data is being collected.

What is a bone marrow biopsy?

A procedure to remove soft tissue, called marrow, from inside the bone.

How successful are bone marrow or stem cell transplants?

Some patients do very well after a BMT or SCT.  Typically, their donors are a perfect match and they were excellent candidates for this procedure.  It is not a procedure for everyone and there are many factors to considered with your health care team .  Read more here

Are MPNs inherited?

Some studies indicate that MPNs can be inherited.  Research suggests that inherited gene mutations such as JAK 2, may predispose individuals to developing an MPN. People are not born with this mutation, it is acquired.

What is the JAK2 gene mutation?

A genetic mutation found in approximately 50% of myelofibrosis patients, 95% of polycythemia vera patients, and approximately 50% of essential thrombocythemia patients.

What are the main symptoms and treatments for MF, PV, and ET?

Please read about symptoms and treatments on the individual pages for myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera, and essential thrombocythemia.

Do young people get MPNs?

Yes.  Infants are sometimes diagnosed with an MPN.  Most often we hear about young adults or older patients but MPNs can strike anyone at any age.

Are there diets or healthy life choices that will make my diagnosis easier?

It is always wise to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan no matter what.  It is doubly important when living with a chronic disease or illness. Good nutrition maintains energy and strengthens the immune system.  Physical activity every day promotes restful sleep and elevates your mood.  Sleep or rest when able.  Yoga or meditation can be beneficial to reduce stress and increase energy.  Participate in a support group.

View Dr. Ruben Mesa’s video on MPNs and fatigue here: http://youtu.be/GNlRtUZKdRE

Do all MPN patients take medications?

No.  There are some patients who do well without medication.  Your physician will discuss your specific diagnosis and treatment needs and options.

Are there MPN centers?

There are many cancer centers and academic institutions who have experienced clinicians who see a number of MPN patients.  Please see our list of MPN centers.

Is there an environmental component to an MPN diagnosis?

There are many patients who believe their exposure to toxins, chemicals, and other hazardous waste may have played a role in their diagnosis.  Currently, a study in Pennsylvania is underway where tons of toxic waste was dumped into empty mine shafts in a tri-county area.  In those same counties, a large number of people have been diagnosed with polycythemia vera. Other patients who were exposed to Agent Orange, benzene, toxins from fires, fertilizers and some who lived near power plants with low doses of radiation emitting, have speculated over the link to their exposure and disease. More studies are needed to confirm and explain these possibilities.

Are there MPN Support Groups?

Yes, check out our list of support groups.

Are there educational programs I can attend?

Yes.  This year 4 will be hosted by the MPN Advocacy and Education International organization.  Visit our events page to view locations and details and to register.

Is there research being done specifically about MPNs? 

Yes, please visit www.mpnresearchfoundation.org.

Where can I learn more? 

Please visit our resources section for more information and to view videos.