MPN-Associated Anemia: What Nurses Should Look Out For


Oncology nurses should have open communication with patients and closely monitor their hemoglobin levels when dealing with patients with myelofibrosis who have or may have anemia.

When treating patients with blood cancers such as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), it is essential for oncology nurses to explain to patients what to expect and what symptoms they should call about. And when the patients talk, it is essential that their nurses are attentive, explained Sharon Bledsoe, MSN, MBA, BSN, RN.

“Make sure that you listen to your patient and that you absolutely follow up with all of their labs and watch and monitor their trends,” Bledsoe, a senior research nurse at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said in an interview with Oncology Nursing News®.

In the case of myelofibrosis (a type of MPN), patients may experience a slow downward trend in hemoglobin levels, as the bone marrow scarring inhibits the body’s ability to produce healthy red blood cells. In turn, patients end up developing anemia. Patients with myelofibrosis-associated anemia may experience a change in their typical MPN-related symptoms, increased fatigue, night sweats, or fever, according to Bledsoe.

However, decreases in blood levels for patients with myelofibrosis may not be as sharp or apparent for patients with myelofibrosis as they are for other malignancies, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML), Bledsoe explained.

“It’s a slow trend. It’s not usually a sudden trend when you’re dealing with myelofibrosis, and it can progress slower than ALL or AML or any of those other blood cancers,” she said.

While the trend may be slow, it is important to catch anemia quickly, according to Bledsoe, so that treatments — namely blood transfusions or JAK inhibitors — can be started in a timely manner and ensure the best outcome for the patient.

Do you know an oncology nurse who goes above and beyond to identify and manage symptoms of patients with MPNs? Submit your nomination for the 2024 Extraordinary Healer® Award for Oncology Nursing.

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