Myelofibrosis and Your Spleen
Author: Voices of MPN
The spleen is an organ many of us probably don’t notice much. When you have myelofibrosis (MF), however, the spleen is an important health focus. That’s because an enlarged spleen can lead to uncomfortable symptoms.
Here are six important facts about the spleen to keep in mind, so you can stay informed and work with your Healthcare Professional to best manage your condition.
- An enlarged spleen is common for people living with MF.
In fact, ~90% of people living with MF have an enlarged spleen when they’re diagnosed.
- You’ll find the spleen in your midsection.
It’s tucked under your ribs on the left side of your upper abdomen.
- Your spleen’s regular job is important.
It helps fight infection by producing white blood cells and fighting off invading disease-causing germs. It also removes old or damaged blood cells and stores red blood cells and platelets, which help your blood clot.
- When it works overtime, it gets bigger.
People with MF have a bone marrow problem. Bone marrow is where blood cells are primarily made. When the bone marrow can’t make enough normal cells, the spleen helps out by starting to produce them. This causes the spleen to grow larger. The medical term for an enlarged spleen is splenomegaly (splee-nuh-MEG-uh-lee).
- An enlarged spleen can cause noticeable symptoms.
As the spleen grows bigger, you may notice pain or discomfort in your abdomen or below your left ribs. You may also feel full even when you’ve eaten very little. It’s also common to lose weight.
- Tell your Healthcare Professional if you experience these symptoms.
Even a slightly enlarged spleen isn’t normal, so be sure to talk to your Healthcare Professional if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above. Your Healthcare Professional can sometimes diagnose an enlarged spleen just by feeling your abdominal area. Other tests can help confirm the diagnosis, such as an ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Patients with polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET) may also present with an enlarged spleen, although it is more common among patients with MF. By understanding the connection between MF and your spleen, you’ll know what’s "normal" and what you should mention to your Healthcare Professional, so you can work together to manage your condition.