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What are MPNs?

Do you know what MPN stands for? If not, you are not alone.


MPN stands for myeloproliferative neoplasm, a group of blood cancers that cause an overproduction of one or more types of blood cells.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN), you might wonder what it is and how it affects your health. MPNs are a group of rare blood cancers that occur when the bone marrow produces too many blood cells of one or more types. The bone marrow is the soft tissue inside your bones that makes red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.


In this post, we will explain these diseases, what causes them, and what symptoms they may cause.

simptoms and types of blood diseases

Content guide



 

There are three main types of MPNs:


  • Essential thrombocythemia (ET). ET causes too many platelets, which are involved in blood clotting.

  • Polycythemia vera (PV). PV causes too many red blood cells, which carry oxygen.

  • Primary myelofibrosis (MF). MF causes scar tissue to form in the bone marrow, impairing its ability to produce normal blood cells.


Causes


The exact causes of MPNs have yet to be fully understood. Still, researchers believe they may be related to acquired gene mutations that affect the signaling pathways that regulate blood cell growth and division. Some of these mutations include JAK2, MPL, and CALR. These mutations are not inherited from parents or passed on to children but occur randomly in some blood stem cells. Other risk factors for MPNs may include:

  • Age (most cases are diagnosed after 60).

  • Environment (exposure to petrochemicals or radiation).

  • Inflammation.



Symptoms

The symptoms of MPNs vary depending on the type and severity of the disease, but they may include:


  • Tiredness, weakness, or shortness of breath

  • Headache, vision problems, dizziness, or lightheadedness

  • Fullness, discomfort, or pain in the upper left abdomen (due to an enlarged spleen)

  • Fever, night sweats, weight loss, or malnutrition

  • Bone pain, itching, easy bleeding or bruising, or susceptibility to infection

  • Burning, redness, and pain in the hands and feet (due to minor vessel disturbances)


MPNs can also increase the risk of complications such as blood clots (thrombosis), bleeding (hemorrhage), bone marrow fibrosis (scarring), or transformation to acute leukemia (a more aggressive type of blood cancer).



Diagnosis


The diagnosis of MPNs is based on a combination of blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, genetic tests, and physical examination. The treatment of MPNs depends on the type and stage of the disease, the patient's age and general health, and the presence of symptoms or complications. Treatment goals are to reduce the risk of complications, relieve symptoms, and improve quality of life.


Some of the treatment options for MPNs include:


  • Phlebotomy (removal of excess blood) for PV

  • Low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots

  • Medications that reduce blood cell production or inflammation (such as hydroxyurea, interferon-alpha, ruxolitinib, or anagrelide)

  • Medications that target specific gene mutations (such as JAK inhibitors or CALR inhibitors)

  • Stem cell transplantation for severe or advanced cases


MPNs are chronic diseases requiring regular monitoring and follow-up with a hematologist (a doctor specializing in blood disorders). Patients with MPNs may also benefit from supportive care such as nutrition counseling, exercise therapy, stress management, and emotional support.



Diagnosed with MPN


If you have been diagnosed with an MPN or have symptoms that suggest an MPN, you may feel scared, confused, or alone. But you don't have to face this challenge by yourself. There are many resources and communities that can help you learn more about your condition and cope with its challenges.


Global MPN Scientific Foundation provides clear and accurate information and emotional support to everyone diagnosed with an MPN and their families and friends. We invite you to join our group and share your experiences, questions, and hopes with others who understand what you are going through.


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