Getting a Myelofibrosis Diagnosis
- Myelofibrosis, a rare type of bone marrow cancer, is diagnosed using blood tests, a bone marrow biopsy, and a symptom assessment.
- Your doctor may also order some other tests like imaging (X-rays, MRIs) or genetic testing.
- Compiling this information through testing helps doctors make a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.
- Some patients with myelofibrosis have such mild disease that they don’t initially need treatment and can be monitored. Others require aggressive treatment.
- Patients who are eligible may be able to get a potentially curative bone marrow transplant.
To diagnose myelofibrosis, doctors will perform a series of tests, which may include:
- Blood labs
- Bone marrow biopsy
- Symptom assessment
After a Myelofibrosis Diagnosis: What to Expect
After getting the initial diagnosis, when patients see their doctors again, “we usually advise them to bring a caregiver with them just because the amount of information that’s going to be discussed might be overwhelming,” Dr. Yacoub says.
During this meeting, you doctor will likely discuss:
- What was found during the bone marrow biopsy
- Results of DNA testing/DNA sequencing
- Results of blood tests
- Any imaging results
“Once a diagnosis is made, we like to provide the prognosis to the patient,” Dr. Yacoub adds.
What Are the Treatment Options for Myelofibrosis?
Some myelofibrosis patients have no, or very few, symptoms from the disease and do not require immediate treatment, while others may require an aggressive approach. For those who require treatment, a bone marrow transplant could be a potential cure for myelofibrosis. However, this is a very aggressive treatment and not all patients are eligible.
RELATED: Living with myelofibrosis — managing the day-to-day
“Curative therapy with a bone marrow transplantation is an option that patients should consider, especially if they’re in good health, especially if their age is young, and especially if their disease is high-risk,” Dr. Yacoub says. “Now for the majority of patients who are not eligible for transplant … for those patients, we focus on the daily struggles for the disease rather than treating the disease itself.”
There are many non-curative options for patients to manage the symptoms associated with myelofibrosis. Symptoms may include:
- Fatigue, shortness of breath (typically due to anemia, or low red blood count)
- Pain or fullness below the ribs (due to an enlarged spleen)
- Easy bruising/bleeding
- Night sweats
- Bone pain
Symptoms related to anemia may be managed with blood transfusions, androgen (hormone) therapy, or a drug regimen including Revlimid (lenalidomine), an oral medicine that’s part of a class of drugs called immunomodulatory drugs and works against cancer cells partly by supporting the immune system.
Symptoms related to an enlarged spleen may be treated with targeted therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation.
More on Myelofibrosis
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.