Why Does the Spleen Become Enlarged in MPNs?

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What causes the spleen to become enlarged in MPN patients? MPN expert Dr. Stephen Oh explains the physiological processes of MPNs, relating to blood cells and bone marrow, that result in splenomegaly or “enlarged spleen.” Tune in to find out more.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners 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. 

Tamara Lobban-Jones:

Absolutely.  Our first question comes from Sherry.  I have ET and a slightly enlarged spleen.  My doctor informed me that this is somewhat normal for this condition.  Can you please explain why the spleen becomes enlarged? What makes this happen?

Susan Leclair:     

Visiting team.

Dr. Oh: 

I can take that one.  So we see enlarged spleens in all the MPNs, PV, ET and myelofibrosis. 

That doesn’t mean every patient with these diseases has an enlarged spleen—more commonly with myelofibrosis and more commonly quite enlarged spleens with myelofibrosis. But it can happen to any extent with any of those three diseases.  So I would say, in general, in a patient with ET, having a slightly enlarged spleen is—I don’t know if normal is the right word but—not uncommon. It’s common.  As to why it occurs, it’s really thought that—I’m going to use sort of a fancy term, but extramedullary hematopoiesis, the details don’t matter, the point is that what we see is that you have these blood cells that are growing abnormally in the bone marrow. 

They’re also sort of lodging in the spleen.  And the spleen then becomes enlarged, again, to varying extents. And if it’s mildly enlarged, often, it doesn’t really cause a lot of symptoms.  In some patients, it does.  But if it’s just mildly enlarged, the patient is not even really noticing it.  

Maybe only the doctor is feeling it. It’s not necessarily a big concern from a symptoms standpoint.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners 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 August 27, 2015