Diagnosis

Your doctor will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam.

Blood tests

If you have polycythemia vera, blood tests might reveal:

  • An increase in the number of red blood cells and, in some cases, an increase in platelets or white blood cells
  • Increased percentage of red blood cells that make up total blood volume (hematocrit measurement)
  • Elevated levels of the iron-rich protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen (hemoglobin).
  • Very low levels of a hormone that stimulates bone marrow to produce new red blood cells (erythropoietin)

Bone marrow aspiration or biopsy

If your doctor suspects you have polycythemia vera, he or she might recommend a bone marrow aspiration or biopsy to collect a sample of your bone marrow for study. A bone marrow biopsy involves taking a sample of solid bone marrow material.

A bone marrow aspiration is usually done at the same time. During an aspiration, your doctor withdraws a sample of the liquid portion of your marrow.

Tests for the gene mutation that causes polycythemia vera

If you have polycythemia vera, analysis of your bone marrow or blood also might show the JAK2 mutation in the cells that's associated with the disease.

Feb. 08, 2017
References
  1. Tefferi A. Diagnostic approach to the patient with polycythemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 16, 2016.
  2. Polycythemia vera. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/poly/. Accessed Nov. 16, 2016.
  3. Tefferi A. Prognosis and treatment of polycythemia vera. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 16, 2016.
  4. Polycythemia vera facts. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. https://www.lls.org/llssearch?search-terms=polycythemia+vera&search_language=en. Accessed Nov. 16, 2016.
  5. Mesa RA, et al. Effect of ruxolitinib therapy on myelofibrosis-related symptoms and other patient-reported outcomes in COMFORT-I: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2013;31:1285.
  6. Brian JC, et al. Overcoming treatment challenges in myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera: The role of ruxolitinib. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology. 2016;77:1125.
  7. Geyer H, et al. Symptomatic profiles of patients with polycythemia vera: Implications of inadequately controlled disease. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2016;34:151.
  8. Polycythemia vera. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/myeloproliferative-disorders/polycythemia-vera. Accessed Nov. 16, 2016.