Myelofibrosis is a serious bone marrow disorder that disrupts your body's normal production of blood cells. The result is extensive scarring in your bone marrow, leading to severe anemia, weakness, fatigue and often an enlarged spleen.
Myelofibrosis is an uncommon type of chronic leukemia — a cancer that affects the blood-forming tissues in the body. Myelofibrosis belongs to a group of diseases called myeloproliferative disorders.
Many people with myelofibrosis get progressively worse, and some may eventually develop a more serious form of leukemia. However, it's also possible to have myelofibrosis and live symptom-free for years. Treatment for myelofibrosis, which focuses on relieving symptoms, can involve a variety of options.
Myelofibrosis usually develops slowly. In its very early stages, many people don't experience signs or symptoms.
As disruption of normal blood cell production increases, signs and symptoms may include:
- Bone pain
- Easy bleeding
- Easy bruising
- Feeling tired, weak or short of breath, usually because of anemia
- Night sweats
- Pain or fullness below your ribs on the left side, due to an enlarged spleen
Although the cause of myelofibrosis often isn't known, certain factors increase your risk:
- Age: Myelofibrosis can affect anyone, but it's most often diagnosed in people older than 50.
- Another blood cell disorder: A small portion of people with myelofibrosis develop the condition as a complication of essential thrombocythemia or polycythemia vera.
- Exposure to certain chemicals: Myelofibrosis has been linked to exposure to industrial chemicals such as toluene and benzene.
- Exposure to radiation: People exposed to high levels of radiation, such as survivors of atomic bomb attacks, have an increased risk of myelofibrosis. Some people who received a radioactive contrast material called Thorotrast, used until the 1950s, have developed myelofibrosis.