Blood Cancer Awareness Post 14: Polycythemia Vera

Yesterday we started talking about MPNs, just a general overview. Today we will be talking about Polycthemia Vera, or PV. This is again a re-post from earlier.

What is PV?

You may remember in my last issue regarding MPNs as a whole, over the next few weeks I plan on breaking down each of the 3 main MPNs (PV, ET, and MF).

 I will start with Polycythemia Vera(we will be addressing Primary Polycythemia).

PolyCythemia Vera

Poly-Greek for many

Cythemia(Made up of 2 words) Kytos – Greek word meaning Cell and

Haima – Greek word meaning Blood.

Vera – From the word Verus, meaning true.

To sum that up: Many blood cells floating around in the blood stream.

PV affects all of the hematopoietic bone marrow elements, meaning all the blood cells produced in the marrow are increased. This can lead to a variety of different issues and symptoms including, but not limited to headaches, itching(unique to PV), dizziness, abdominal pain(due to enlarged spleen or possibly liver) increased risk of blood clots, and stroke.

As I said in the issue before, each of these MPNs can be very difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can be difficult to pinpoint, and often lend themselves easily to a variety of diseases. I think I will go through and answer the same some of the same questions as in the first entry, applying them to PV.

How are you diagnosed with that disease/condition/thing?

How do they treat it?

When will it be cured?

As with most MPNs, PV can often be discovered after some other event/illness/diagnosis. Regardless of how the disease is initially discovered, there are several criteria that must be present to help verify which MPN you are dealing with. Most commonly diagnosis happens after a series of blood tests; Complete Blood Count (CBC), Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), and often Bone Marrow Biopsy (BMB). What the doctor is looking for in aCBCis an abnormal increase in blood cell amounts. Red cells, white cells, platelets, everything. With a BMB your doctor will be looking at bone marrow abnormalities and genetic markers in the marrow.

Treatment for PV varies by patient. Treatment ranges from watch and wait, or phlebotomy, to prescription medications like Hydroxyurea or Anagrelide(More common for ET patients, but  PV can take it as well). Phlebotomy is basically blood letting. When counts get too high, a patient will go to the clinic, and a unit or so of blood will be removed from their body, thus lowering blood counts.

As for a cure, this is the same as with any MPN. There is no “cure” per se. The disease can be managed thru treatment, and some can live a relatively normal life with little to no interference from the disease. However, since every patient is different, everyone will experience a different set of symptoms of the disease.

I do not claim to know all there is to know about ANY myeloproliferative neoplasm for that matter…. I am sure that I missed something here, but this is just my general understanding, and the way I would explain it to someone who knew nothing about PV. I would like to take this opportunity to invite PV patients to add to this. Particularly things like “What do you wish you had known at diagnosis that no one told you?”

Tomorrow we will be talking about Essential Thrombocytosis (ET)

Until tomorrow,

Lina

Blood Cancer Awareness Post 4: Red Blood Cells

Yesterday we discussed Blood Plasma, today we will talk about Red Blood Cells.

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Red Blood Cells, (RBCs) also called erythrocytes, are the most common type of blood cell. Like all of our blood cells, RBCs originate in the bone marrow. They are flexible, oval shaped cells which carry oxygen and CO2 around the body. Hemoglobin, an iron rich protein, is what makes carrying oxygen through the body possible. It is also what makes your blood red. Hematocrit, is the percentage of whole blood that is made up of RBCs.

The production of RBCs is triggered by a hormone which is produced in the kidneys. This hormone tells your bone marrow to produce immature RBCs, which then spend about 7 days, maturing in the marrow. After they are matured, RBCs spend about 120 days in the system.

There is a delicate balance to all blood cells in the body, each type of cell has a proper range. When these ranges get out of whack, that’s when issues arise. Below is the averages used by my lab for each different blood component. Later we’ll go into more detail on what to pay attention to on a CBC.

blood counts

That is all for today, tomorrow we’ll be talking about White Blood Cells!

Until Tomorrow,

Lina