Treatment of MF aims to control any symptoms you have, so the treatment you’re given depends on how the disease is affecting you. If you don’t have symptoms you may not need any treatment for a while. In this case, your haematologist will monitor your condition regularly. If you develop any symptoms between appointments, let your specialist know.
There are various treatments that may be used to improve symptoms of myelofibrosis, but they're not all suitable for everyone. Your specialist will tell you if they are appropriate in your situation.
If you have symptoms caused by a low red blood cell count (anaemia), you can be given blood transfusions. Usually it is possible to have a blood transfusion as a day patient, but it may involve an overnight stay in hospital. Blood transfusions can be repeated as often as necessary.
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It may be used to treat MF, especially if the symptoms are severe.
Chemotherapy can help reduce the size of the spleen and the liver, and can help control other symptoms. This may also help increase the number of blood cells.
Chemotherapy isn't suitable for everyone with MF. It temporarily affects the way the bone marrow works and may reduce the level of blood cells, so if you have chemotherapy you'll be monitored very closely. Sometimes chemotherapy is given in reduced doses to help lower the risk of serious side effects.
Your doctor or nurse will explain the possible side effects of any chemotherapy they recommend for you.
Other treatments may involve:
- Medicines called recombinant erythropoietin or androgens to help stimulate red blood cell production
- Splenectomy (removal of the spleen) if swelling causes symptoms, or to help with anaemia
- Stem cell transplantation
In young people, bone marrow or stem cell transplants appear to improve the outlook, and may cure the disease.
Reviewed April 2013