Don’t Shy Away From Discussing MPN Side Effects


Patients being treated for a myeloproliferative neoplasm should be open with their care team about any side effects they experience, an expert said.

It is essential that patients being treated for a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) be upfront with their clinicians about side effects that they experience, explained Julie Huynh-Lu, a physician assistant from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

MPNs neoplasms are a group of blood cancers that causes the bone marrow to produce too much red or white blood cells or platelets. While there are multiple treatments for MPNs depending on the patient’s characteristics and individual disease type, common side effects, according to Huynh-Lu, include diarrhea, frequent infections and pneumonia.

Patients may feel apprehensive about discussing side effects with their care team in fear of being taken off treatment. But they shouldn’t be, Huynh-Lu, explained.

“So sometimes it could be something as simple as putting a band-aid on it … let's say they started treatment and they're having worsening itching. Well, there's medications that I can use to treat the worsening itching,” Huynh-Lu said in an interview with CURE®. “If the drug is controlling their disease, then let's just put a band-aid on it and go from there. If they are having progression and disease, that's something different.”

If a patient’s disease is getting worse on treatment, there are options, too, such as switching to a different type of treatment or enrolling in a clinical trial, Huynh-Lu said.


My advice probably would be if you're having these side effects, then the idea of being on treatment is to help you feel better, right? And not just prolonging your life and treating the disease — it's to improve your quality of life. So if you're having these symptoms, that honestly might be (worsening) your quality of life, then it certainly bodes having a conversation with your provider on whether or not the current treatment is the right one for you. Because there could be other options out there, and it's worth exploring; it doesn't mean necessarily that you have to jump ship and go straight to a different treatment, obviously, but it's worth it to discuss with someone, what else is out there, because you might not know what else is out there for yourself.

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