Cancer - Oncology

Myelodysplastic Syndrome

In Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), genetic mutations in the bone marrow stem cell cause the number and quality of blood-forming cells to decline irreversibly, further impairing blood production. Patients with MDS can develop severe anemia and in some cases leukemia also known as AML. 

Symptoms of MDS

While MDS rarely has symptoms at first, overtime, it may cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual paleness (pallor) due to anemia
  • Easy or unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Pinpoint-sized red spots just beneath your skin caused by bleeding (petechiae)
  • Frequent infections

Complications that may develop in cases of MDS include:

  • Anemia
  • Recurrent infections
  • Bleeding that won't stop
  • Increased risk of leukemia

Causes and Risk Factors for MDS

Some types of MDS have no known cause, but these cases are easily treated. Chemicals or radiation may cause other types of MDS. MDS cases that occur in response to cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, or in response to chemical exposure, are secondary MDS. Secondary myelodysplastic syndromes are often more difficult to treat. Risk factors of MDP include:

  • Being older than 60 years of age
  • Treatment with chemotherapy or radiation
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as smoke, pesticides, and industrial chemicals
  • Exposure to heavy metals, such as lead and mercury

Screening and Diagnosis of MDS

To determine the presence of MDS, doctors recommend a complete blood count to examine changes to blood cells, and may also suggest a bone marrow biopsy and aspiration to look for abnormalities.

Treatments for MDS

The purpose of MDS treatment is to slow the progression of the disease and to provide supportive care in managing symptoms, including bone marrow stem cell transplantation, blood transfusions, and medications.