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New learning units focus on haematological cancers

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Better survival rates for a group of haematological cancers known as myeloproliferative neoplasms mean nurses play a bigger role in managing patients with these conditions. Scroll down to read the article or download a print-friendly PDF here


Treatment and management of haematological cancers known as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) has been transformed in recent years by the development of new treatments. These treatments have increased patients’ survival significantly, with many remaining stable for years, providing they are diagnosed early and managed appropriately. Specialist nurses are increasingly involved in managing patients with MPNs. The long-term nature of MPNs means non-specialist nurses are increasingly likely to encounter these patients in other contexts and may therefore need an insight into their condition and treatment.

Nursing Times Learning has developed two new learning units on MPNs, which will be useful for nurses working in this specialty or interested in doing so, and for those who care for patients with these conditions when they present in non-specialist services.

The units have been developed by clinical nurse specialists and double-blind peer reviewed. Their development was fully funded by Novartis, but editorial control was retained by the authors and Nursing Times.

What are MPNs?

MPNs occur when the body makes too many white or red blood cells or platelets. This overproduction of blood cells in the bone marrow can create problems for blood flow and lead to a range of symptoms; they range in severity from mild to aggressive. While the conditions can be serious or life-threatening, with effective management many patients can survive for years.

However, patients with MPNs need to be cared for by a multi-disciplinary cancer specialist team to ensure that they receive the most appropriate treatment; specialist nurses are key members of the multidisciplinary team.

The learning units

The learning units consist of a baseline assessment to establish learners’ know-ledge of the subject. This is followed by a review of key evidence and guidance, and a series of case scenarios enabling them to apply their learning to practice. A final assessment checks learners’ knowledge after studying the unit; those who score 80% or more receive a certificate acknowledging they have passed and gained two hours of CPD, which count as individual hours towards revalidation requirements.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia

One of the learning units focuses on chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), one of the most common types of leukaemia (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2012a). It is characterised by a proliferation of abnormal white blood cells that are not fully developed, poorly functioning and eventually suppress the production of normal white blood cells. Approximately 560 people are diagnosed with CML in the UK each year; slightly more men than women develop the condition, and the average age at diagnosis is 60 years (NICE, 2012c).

The learning unit covers:

  • The pathophysiology and diagnosis of CML;
  • The treatment options available;
  • How patient response to treatment is measured;
  • How patient treatment goals are set and how to respond if they are not achieved;
  • The principle of molecular response to treatment;
  • The holistic considerations necessary for long-term management of CML.

Myeloproliferative neoplasms

The second unit covers three other MPNs - polycythaemia vera, essential thrombocytopenia and myelofibrosis. Although the conditions can occur at any age, most patients are diagnosed after the age of 60 (Verstovsek, 2016). The unit covers:

  • The pathophysiology of MPNs;
  • Symptoms associated with MPNs;
  • How MPNs are diagnosed;
  • How patient symptoms are monitored;
  • The treatment options available to patients with MPNs;
  • The holistic considerations necessary for long-term management of MPNs.

To access the learning units go to, sign in and click Learning units to enter the Nursing Times Learning system.

Ann Shuttleworth, practice and learning editor, Nursing Times

Nursing Times Learning

These learning units are free to access for subscribers to Nursing Times and to non-subscribers who are registered as users of

Subscribers to Nursing Times have unlimited access to a growing range of online learning on fundamental aspects of nursing care.

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