Tag Archive for: MPN Symptom Assessment Form

Tracking MPN Symptoms: Strategies for Managing Disease Burden

Tracking MPN Symptoms: Strategies for Managing Disease Burden from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can MPN providers best have conversations with their patients about symptoms? Dr. Gabriela Hobbs and expert Natasha Johnson share tactics and advice for assessing MPN patient symptoms.

Dr. Gabriela Hobbs is a hematology-oncology physician specializing in the care of patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), chronic myeloid leukemia, and leukemia. Dr. Hobbs serves as clinical director of the adult leukemia service at Massachusetts General Hospital and is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. 

Natasha Johnson, is an Advanced Oncology Nurse Practitioner at Moffitt Cancer Center, where she cares for people living with MPNs with kindness, patience, and humanity. Natasha also speaks at conferences to educate other healthcare professionals about MPN care, research, and treatment.

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Nicole Rochester, MD:

Both of you have mentioned the importance of tracking symptoms, and so we want to shift and talk about strategies for managing disease burden, and I’d love to hear from each of you about what are your recommendations as you speak to MPN patients and their care partners about symptoms? How should other providers bring up those conversations and what are the best ways to really elucidate the symptoms that patients with MPN are having? So I’ll start with you, Dr. Hobbs.

Gabriela Hobbs, MD:

So this may sound obvious, but the first way of figuring out what symptoms a patient has is by asking, and it’s so interesting, right? There’s been studies comparing what symptoms are most important to patients and what symptoms clinicians think the patient have. And guess what, the clinicians don’t actually know which symptoms the patient has, or which symptoms are most important to the patient, and…so anyway, it sounds obvious, but it sometimes isn’t, and I think clinicians are busy and sometimes feel like having a tool to ask those questions is maybe too burdensome. I personally find that the MPN symptom assessment form is a quick form, it’s easy to complete, it can be given to a patient, there’s a piece of paper while they’re waiting for you.

And that also directs the conversation because it really just gives numbers, makes it objective, and then can really start that conversation. And so remembering that we do have this tool, it actually can help cut down time to the visit and make it more focused, and it’s helpful to…empowers the patient and make sure that you really are asking about all of those symptoms, and just making sure that you don’t just assume that a patient has or doesn’t have a symptom, but really saying, “Are there any other symptoms that you’ve noticed?” I’m trying to be really thorough because, honestly, MPN symptoms can manifest in so many different ways for our patients in addition to those 10 symptoms that are asked in the MPN symptom assessment form, and so trying to be thorough about those symptoms, I think, really important.

Nicole Rochester, MD:

And thank you for that and for highlighting sometimes this disconnect between the patients and the clinicians, and also the fact that what’s important to us may not be as important to the patient, and what’s important to the patient may get overlooked by us, and so again, it’s always going back to centering the patient and their experiences. Do you have anything to add, Ms. Johnson, with regard to talking to patients about their symptoms? 

Natasha Johnson:

Yes, I had to just laugh in on my head with what Dr. Hobbs said, ’cause it’s so true. With MPNs, numbers are a big deal in this world, and we can see a patient and just look at their numbers and think, “They look good,” and then you see them and they’re like, “I feel horrible.” And it just doesn’t relate. And so I agree with what she said, really going over what are the common symptoms and then thinking about, if they’re on treatment, is this like a medication side effect or is this a disease-related symptom, and then thinking just about comorbidity. So often our patients can have CHF or pulmonary hypertension that’s contributing to their symptoms, and so discussing that and trying to get those things managed.

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MPN Symptom or Treatment Side Effect? Know the Difference

MPN Symptom or Treatment Side Effect? Know the Difference from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How do you distinguish MPN symptoms from side effects? Dr. Laura Michaelis explains the difference, and why it’s important to share any changes with your doctor.

Dr. Laura Michaelis is hematologist specializing in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she also serves as Associate Professor of Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Michaelis here.

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Dr. Michaelis:             

So, symptoms and side effects are sort of different things. Symptoms are the characteristics of the disease process. And these are things that often can vary in intensity. They maybe accumulate over time. But those are things like, for example, uncontrolled itching, fatigue, night sweats, fevers at night, unintentional weight loss, discomfort in the abdomen, or feeling full shortly after eating. Those are symptoms that often bring patients to the doctor’s attention in the beginning. And those are symptoms that can tell us that the treatments that we’re using aren’t working very well.

Now, side effects is the term that we use for problems that evolve when somebody starts a treatment for a condition. So, for example, if somebody starts the treatment of ruxolitinib for myelofibrosis, it is known that one of the side effects of this treatment is a small but significant lowering in the red blood cell [count].

That is a side effect of the ruxolitinib and should be anticipated. So, before you start the ruxolitinib, your doctor should sit down with you and talk about some of the side effects. And that might be one that gets mentioned.

In addition, we know that there is uncommonly – but uncommonly, people can have, for example, shingles reactivation once they’re taking treatment for myelofibrosis. And that might be something for which you take a prophylactic antiviral treatment.

Hydroxyurea has side effects. Interferon has side effects. And those are things that you should think about before you start them. They shouldn’t be reasons not to start the treatment because most people who take medicines don’t have the side effects. But it is something to keep in mind. And when then occur, report them to your doctor.

So, rarely, there’s conditions that occur, and you’re not sure. Is this a side effect to the treatment? Or does this mean the disease is progressing in some way? That’s one of the reasons it’s important to report all of these conditions to your physician because they need to know.

One of the things that can be helpful is there’s a common tool called the MPN SAF, which is a symptom assessment form.

If, periodically, you and your doctor fill that out during a clinic visit, you can sort of understand are those symptoms that I had with my disease responding to the treatment? Can we really measure that things have gotten better since I started treatment X or treatment Y?

And in addition, when you sit down with your doctor at your regular checkups, it’s not just about going through your blood counts and doing a physical exam. It’s also about telling them what you’ve noticed in the last two to three months since you saw your doctor with regard to the treatments that you’re taking.