What is MDS?
MDS is a group of disorders that affect blood cells, and the most common type is myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). These are conditions in which the bone marrow makes too few or too many blood cells. MDS is also one of five cancers that may be diagnosed in people under age 20.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn all about MDS, including the different types and stages of the disease.
The symptoms of MDS
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin (paleness)
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding, including frequent or severe nosebleeds and bleeding gums
- Swollen lymph nodes, spleen or liver
- Fever (with no other known cause)
- Weight loss (with no other known cause)
How is MDS diagnosed?
Just like any other health condition, MDS is diagnosed through a physical examination. During this, your doctor will feel for swollen glands and ask about your history (what symptoms you’re experiencing, medications you take, etc.). You’ll then undergo a blood test to determine how well your bone marrow produces red blood cells in the absence of normal functioning. This could be the only test you need to diagnose MDS.
Your doctor may also order a bone marrow biopsy and aspiration. During these procedures, your doctor will remove a sample of fluid and tissue from the bone marrow to examine it under high power microscopes in order to detect abnormalities that would indicate MDS or other diseases. A chromosome analysis will look at how many chromosomes are present and whether they have been mutated in any way that could lead to faulty stem cell production (the kind that would cause MDS).
Treatments for MDS
Treatment for MDS depends on the type of disease and its severity. Treatment options can include:
- Drugs. For example, lenalidomide or azacitidine may be given to treat low blood counts. Some of these drugs may also decrease the risk that MDS will progress to leukemia. Others may stimulate bone marrow cells to produce more blood-forming cells.
- Transfusions. If you have anemia, doctors may prescribe red blood cell transfusions to increase your red blood cell count and improve your symptoms. Too many transfusions can cause iron overload, so medicines called iron chelators are often given along with transfusions to prevent this problem.
- Bone marrow transplant. Also called stem cell transplantation, this procedure replaces a person’s diseased bone marrow with that from a healthy donor (allogeneic transplant). Sometimes people who receive an allogeneic transplant develop graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). This occurs when the patient’s immune system reacts against the donor’s immune system and causes damage to the body’s organs and tissues (see GVHD in Immunotherapy for Cancer [http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/immunotherapy] ). Another option is autologous transplantation in which a patient receives his or her own blood-forming cells that were removed before treatment and later returned to their body after treatment is finished (see Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation [http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/bone-marrow-transplant/peripheral-blood-stem-cell-transplantation] ).
- Surgery or radiation therapy if a person has cysts or tumors in his or her abdomen (belly) caused by MDS
Myelodysplastic syndromes and leukemia
It’s important to know that MDS is not the same as leukemia. Leukemia is a cancer that starts in blood-forming cells of the bone marrow, and it makes too many immature white blood cells (called leukemia cells). These leukemia cells do not function like healthy white blood cells, which are part of your immune system. They also crowd out healthy red blood cells and platelets, leaving your body with fewer normal blood cells.
MDS is a bone marrow disease that does not affect the immune system like acute or chronic leukemia does. However, MDS can lead to acute or chronic myeloid leukemia (AML or CML) in some patients. It’s also important to note that MDS is not contagious, meaning you cannot catch it from someone else.
So how do you know if you have AML versus CML? Acute leukemia develops quickly and often causes more severe symptoms than chronic leukemias such as CML; however, each type of leukemia is different and has its own set of symptoms and characteristics.
Clinical trial statistics for myelodysplastic syndromes (mds) in the U.S.
- There are more than 200 clinical trials in the United States for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).
- More than 3,000 patients are enrolled in clinical trials for MDS.
- Nearly 100 of these clinical trials are currently enrolling patients.
- Approximately 10 of these clinical trials are enrolling patients in the U.S.
Every year, about 3 out of every 100,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes.
Every year, about 3 out of every 100,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes. Of those who have this disease, only 1 out of 5 will take part in a clinical trial.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (mds) are diseases that affect the bone marrow and blood. MDS can cause a large number of health problems because patients do not make enough healthy blood cells, which can lead to anemia (low red blood cell count), bleeding problems (low platelet count), and infections (low white blood cell count).