Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a disorder in which bone marrow fails to produce a sufficient amount of blood cells, resulting in low numbers of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Depending on a set of known risk factors, MDS can evolve into Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

The physicians at Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (CBCI) are specialists in the care of patients with MDS.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome Causes

The exact cause of MDS is unknown and is not inherited. It can occur without any identifiable predisposing factors or may develop after a patient has been treated with chemotherapy or radiation for another disease.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome Symptoms

Patients with MDS are often symptom-free upon diagnosis, with the disease being detected after a low blood count is recognized in routine blood checkups or bone marrow biopsy. However, low blood count symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue or easy exhaustion
  • Dizziness and/or short of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Easy bruising or frequent bleeding like nosebleed, gum bleeding or blood in the urine and stool

Myelodysplastic Syndrome Treatment

Treatment options for MDS are tailored based on the risk group the patient falls into. The treatment intention is to both improve quality of life and prolong survival.

Treatment options for MDS include:

  • Red blood cell and platelet transfusions
  • Growth factor medications to treat low blood counts
  • Chemotherapy or immune system modulating therapy in relatively more symptomatic patients who often require blood or platelet transfusions and have a more aggressive disease

Patients with MDS are classified into subgroups based on three major factors found in their primary work-up:

  • The level of reduction in different types of blood cells
  • The number of immature cells in the bone marrow
  • The presence of cytogenetic abnormalities in the blood cells

Considering the above-mentioned risk factors, an international prognostic scoring system (IPSS) has been designed to estimate the severity of the disease and overall survival. Usually patients with MDS are sub classified into four risk groups using IPSS: low, intermediate I, intermediate 2 and high risk.

For patients with intermediate or high risk with an available matched donor, allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplantation is often recommended. While allogeneic stem cell transplantation is the only curative treatment for MDS, it carries with it a high risk and is generally limited to higher risk and younger patients.

The physicians at Colorado Blood Cancer Institute are continuously adapting to new research and clinical trials. Our team of experts is prepared to discuss all of these treatment options, including stem cell transplantation, with you or with your referring physician.