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Polycythemia Vera is a slow-growing blood cancer where your bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. These excess cells thicken your blood, slowing its flow, which may cause serious complications, such as blood clots. The goal of treatment is to reduce the thickness of your blood and prevent bleeding and clotting. A variety of treatments are available, including medications, phlebotomy, and other procedures.

1. Phlebotomy

Phlebotomy is the primary treatment for polycythemia vera. It involves removing blood from your body, similar to donating blood, to decrease the number of blood cells. This procedure reduces the blood's thickness, making clots less likely. The frequency of phlebotomy procedures depends on the severity of the condition and the patient's response to treatment.

2. Low-Dose Aspirin

Low-dose aspirin may be used to reduce the risk of blood clots. Aspirin is an antiplatelet agent that prevents platelets from clumping together, which can help prevent the formation of blood clots. However, it's important to note that aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding, so it should be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

3. Medications

Several medications can help reduce the number of red blood cells or platelets in your body. These include:

  • Hydroxyurea (Hydrea, Droxia): This is a chemotherapy drug that suppresses the bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells.
  • Interferon alfa (Intron A, Roferon A): This drug prompts your immune system to fight off the overproduction of cells in the bone marrow.
  • Ruxolitinib (Jakafi): This is a newer medication that can reduce the number of red blood cells and relieve symptoms in people with polycythemia vera. It works by blocking the action of certain proteins that cause the body to produce too many blood cells.

4. Radiation Therapy

In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to suppress the bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells. This treatment is typically reserved for older patients or those who can't take other treatments. However, it's less commonly used today due to the potential long-term side effects.

5. Clinical Trials 

Clinical trials are not just a last resort for treating polycythemia vera. They can actually provide access to cutting-edge treatments that are not yet approved but show promise over years of testing. The choice of a clinical trial depends on a variety of factors including the patient's age, and overall health. It's important to discuss all treatment options, including goals and possible side effects, with your healthcare team to help make the best decision. 

To learn more about your polycythemia vera clinical trial options, visit HealthTree's Polycythemia Vera Clinical Trial Finder. Utilize the advanced filter option to locate trials that you are eligible to participate in. You can create a HealthTree account to favorite your top trial options so you can discuss them with your specialist.

 

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