Myelofibrosis is an uncommon type of bone marrow cancer that disrupts body's normal production of blood cells.
Myelofibrosis causes extensive scarring in bone marrow, leading to severe anemia that can cause weakness and fatigue. It can also cause a low number of blood-clotting cells called platelets, which increases the risk of bleeding. Myelofibrosis often causes an enlarged spleen.
Myelofibrosis is considered to be a chronic leukemia — a cancer that affects the blood-forming tissues in the body. Myelofibrosis belongs to a group of diseases called myeloproliferative disorders.
Some people with myelofibrosis have no symptoms and might not need treatment right away. Others with more-serious forms of the disease might need aggressive treatments right away. Treatment for myelofibrosis, which focuses on relieving symptoms, can involve a variety of options.
Myelofibrosis occurs when bone marrow stem cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. The stem cells have the ability to replicate and divide into the multiple specialized cells that make up blood — red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
It's not clear what causes the genetic mutations in bone marrow stem cells.
As the mutated blood stem cells replicate and divide, they pass along the mutations to the new cells. As more and more of these mutated cells are created, they begin to have serious effects on blood production.
The end result is usually a lack of red blood cells — which causes the anemia characteristic of myelofibrosis — and an overabundance of white blood cells with varying levels of platelets. In people with myelofibrosis, the normally spongy bone marrow becomes scarred.
Although the cause of myelofibrosis often isn't known, certain factors are known to increase your risk:
Complications that may result from myelofibrosis include:
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