There are hundreds of different forms of cancer, but one that most people do not hear much about is polycythemia vera, commonly known as PV. It's part of a group of blood cancers called myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs. It's a disease of bone marrow that causes too many cells to be produced. The cells can be irregularly shaped, and an excess of cells makes the blood thick. This results in a high risk of blood clots for patients, as well as fatigue, shortness of breath and widespread pain.
In patients with PV, since their blood is thicker than healthy patients, not only are they at risk for clots, heart attack, and stroke, but the blood doesn't circulate as easily through the body. Getting oxygen to muscles, the brain, and the lungs takes longer, and this is what causes the fatigue, pain and sometimes mental fog that PV patients report. Blood tests can reveal PV, but patients are often reluctant to report vague symptoms to their health care providers, chalking the signs up to age or fitness. Healthcare providers can check a patient's hematocrit levels, which is the volume of red blood cells in the bloodstream. Patients who have PV should consult an oncologist or hematologist for proper treatment.