Is an MPN a Blood Cancer or a Blood Disorder?

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Is an MPN a blood cancer, or a blood disorder?  What are the definitions, and what is the difference?  Dr. Srdan Verstovsek from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston explains how MPNs work, how they are different—or similar—to other types of cancers.  He also explains how your treatment is determined by the type of MPN you have.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Jeff Folloder:

Is MPN a bone marrow cancer, a blood cancer or just some kind of blood disorder? What is it?

Dr. Verstovsek:

So this is a very common question. We went through the common questions, what do I have, how do you diagnose, what’s the prognosis, how do you treat? And then obviously the question is, is it a cancer or is it not a cancer?

Now general description, the overall description of a cancer might be for some people that the cells grow without control. And if the cells grow without control, this is a cancer. And these are then benign cancers or malignant cancers, right?

And the standard example that I give to my patients, and many here have heard this before, is skin cancer. You have malignant melanoma on the skin, which can spread and kill you in six months. It’s aggressive disease. And you have a basal cell carcinoma, which you just shave off and that’s it.

All right, so one is benign. It’s called cancer, but it’s benign. The other is cancer, but it’s malignant and can kill you quickly. So in that sense you have the name applies to different conditions.

And the myeloproliferative neoplasms, which is official name, has this particular word, neoplasms, to say that this is a combination of different conditions which are cancerous by the definition of uncontrolled growth, but may be benign as most of the people would agree, ET is, that would not affect the life expectancy of the people.

PV is very similar to ET. But myelofibrosis is more aggressive, and it has potential to lower the life expectancy. So it’s a spectrum of here. We don’t call any of this cancer by itself. They have names, ET, PV, myelofibrosis. They are by the largest definition abnormal growth of the cells, neoplasms.

If you live like colon cancer, it’s okay. But we don’t need to really beat it. It’s a cancer it’s a cancer. It's a disease of the blood and bone marrow that can affect your life expectancy sometimes, and we are trying to change the outcome and make the life well and long, as long as possible.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

 

 

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Page last updated on December 24, 2015