I am looking for alternatives
Get the balance right. Combine the best of conventional medication with complementary therapies to find a plan that works for you.
Many people with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) are frustrated with the lack of choice and potential side effects associated with conventional treatments. Others feel concerned about the long-term risks posed by medications.
Beyond conventional treatment – what to know
Do your research
When considering treatments whether conventional, complementary or alternative, a good start is to learn as much as you can about your own condition and about the pros and cons of treatment options available to you. Visit our Treatments section for useful information about individual medications.
Review your options
Your haematologist may be able to suggest several options among conventional treatments as one particular drug may be more suitable than another for you. If you have a “low-risk MPN”, treatment with aspirin only or aspirin and phlebotomy only may be an option.
Not an either/or
An innovative trend in medical care is integrative medicine – medical care that combines the best of both conventional and complementary treatments. You may also wish to try complementary therapies in addition to conventional treatments to find a plan that works best for you.
Team up with your doctor
Ask your doctor for more information about the pros and cons of treatment choices, and about what options might be available to you. Explain your concerns and any side effects you may be experiencing. If you are taking medication and are frustrated with side effects, it can help to keep a log of how you feel to share with your haematologist or GP.
Try complementary therapies
Complementary therapies such as meditation, massage, yoga and tai chi have been proven in several studies to offer substantial benefits to patients. These techniques can reduce stress, lower heart rate, reduce pain, increase the effectiveness of medication and reduce side effects. There are many options available and you can find one to suit your needs.
Explore alternative therapies
Some haemtologists recommend nutritional supplements and alternative therapies while others do not. Some recent studies have shown that Vitamin D supplements and ginseng in particular doses may be beneficial to some patients with chronic illnesses. Other studies have not shown benefits for alternative therapies, and many supplements and alternative medications have never been tested in research studies. We recommend that you research your options carefully and share your decision with your medical team. You can find helpful information on reputable websites such as the NHS Choices, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Mayo Clinic.
Explore drug trials
If you have myelofibrosis (MF), or if you have essential thrombocythaemia (ET) or polycythaemia vera (PV) and have not had success with your current treatment regime, a drug trial may be an option for you. Check our Trials and Research section for trials that may be suitable for you, talk with your haematologist, or visit the websites of UK Clinical Trials Gateway or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US. And if you’d like to hear a first-hand account of participating in the JAK2 inhibitor trial, watch our video interview of Albert, a man with MF who enrolled on one of the first JAK inhibitor trials.
Take care of yourself
Whenever making treatment decisions, it’s vital to include self-care. The building blocks of any good treatment plan are exercise, a healthy diet and stress reduction.