2009.09.26 – 2 new cases of polycythemia vera confirmed


2 new cases of polycythemia vera confirmed

Published: September 26, 2009

Two new cases of the blood cancer polycythemia vera have been confirmed, and others tested positive in the first round of blood tests of residents of Schuylkill and Luzerne counties.

Dr. Paul Roda of Geisinger-Hazleton Cancer Center called the results very preliminary, but said a public meeting is being scheduled on Oct. 24 in Hazleton to review findings and research.

After a federal study last year confirmed that a cancer cluster of people with the disease exists around Ben Titus Road between Hazleton and Tamaqua, blood tests were offered to people in both counties this summer. Smaller clusters exist south of Frackville in Schuylkill County and near Jim Thorpe in Carbon County, according to the study done last year by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

In all, the study said blood tests helped confirm more than 30 cases of the disease in the region.

This summer, requests for the blood test exceeded the available appointments, but a new round of tests will start in October.

One of the people confirmed to have polycythemia vera after the summer tests had been seeing a hematologist in Schuylkill County previously. Roda didn’t know the circumstances or location of the other case.

He said others tested positive for a mutation of the JAK2 gene that is found in people who have the disease or develop it.

Roda and his colleagues will ask each person with a positive blood test to be screened for the disease. The  screening includes a physical exam, an examination of blood under a microscope, a review of the person’s medical history and a bone marrow test.

“We just need to get all our paperwork done before we invite people who are positive to come in for an exam,” Roda said.

He believes the exams will occur before January of next year.

Patients with polycythemia vera produce too many red cells, which thickens their blood. They can develop headaches, dizziness and high blood pressure, and doctors treat them by draining their blood periodically.