How to understand Myelofibrosis Symptoms? Myelofibrosis is an uncommon type of bone marrow cancer that disrupts your body's normal production of blood cells. This disease occurs when bone marrow stem cells develop mutations in their DNA and affects approximately 1.5 cases per 100,000 people. The end outcome is usually an overproduction of blood cells from a malfunctioning spleen or a lack of red blood cells, which causes anemia. Patients may identify a range of myelofibrosis symptoms, from mild to severe, as a result of the normally spongy bone marrow becoming thick and scarred.
Are Myelofibrosis Symptoms associated with other bone marrow diseases? Myelofibrosis is called primary myelofibrosis when it develops on its own and not as a result of another bone marrow disease. Myelofibrosis can also be caused by a worsening of other bone marrow diseases such as polycythemia vera and essential thrombocythemia which is known as secondary myelofibrosis.
While there may be risk contributing factors to this complex disease, we do know that certain proteins called Janus-associated kinases, or JAKs, are relevant. JAKs tell blood cells in the bone marrow to divide and grow. When JAKs are not functioning normally, they cause the body to make the wrong number of blood cells. They can also cause bone marrow scarring, an enlarged spleen, and other symptoms.
Mutations, or changes in genes, are thought to be ultimately responsible for Myelofibrosis. The mutations may be in the genes that make JAKs, or the mutations may be in genes that affect how JAKs function. In either case, the mutations cause what is known as overactive JAK signaling.
Bone marrow is where blood cells are made. As scar tissue builds up, the bone marrow cannot make enough blood cells. The spleen, which is an organ near the stomach under the left ribs, begins to partially take over blood cell production. This may enlarge the spleen, a condition known as splenomegaly.
Identifying Common Myelofibrosis Symptoms
Myelofibrosis symptoms experienced and overall health of every cancer patient is different. Because the disease has both different types and different stages, patients and doctors must carefully analyze whether the symptoms are a result of too few or too many cells producing blood.
As disruption of normal blood cell production increases, signs and symptoms may include:
- Feeling tired, weak, or short of breath (typically due to anemia)
- Pain or fullness below ribs on the left side (due to enlarged spleen)
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Excessive sweating during sleep
- Bone pain
If you have any of these persistent symptoms or concerns, consider consulting your doctor or oncologist.
Advanced clinical research aims to improve myelofibrosis treatment, prevention, and diagnostic options. As of now, there are 56 myelofibrosis clinical trial trials underway in the United States available for patients to enroll in.