Myelodysplastic Syndrome FAQs
What is myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)?
Myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS refers to a group of blood and bone marrow cancers that occur when new blood cells don’t mature normally. The cellular components of your blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, are produced by stem cells in your bone marrow.
Stem cells self-replicate to create a new cell. Then that new cell develops into the different types of blood cells your body needs.
When you have myelodysplastic syndrome, however, the new cells remain immature, or they develop abnormally. As a result, your blood count is low because it contains fewer cells, and the cells circulating in your bloodstream may not function normally.
What are the subtypes of myelodysplastic syndromes?
There are seven MDS subtypes, some of which can progress to become acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is a blood cancer that occurs when immature cells grow uncontrollably.
MDS subtypes are based on the types of cells affected, your blood cell counts, and the percentage of immature cells in your bone marrow.
Your risk for developing AML is determined by a scoring system called IPSS-R. IPSS-R has values that determine your MDS subtype and other factors, such as chromosomal changes.
What symptoms develop due to myelodysplastic syndrome?
White blood cells are part of your immune system, while red blood cells carry oxygen to all the tissues in your body. Platelets are essential to make blood clot and to activate healing when you’re injured or develop a disease.
When your body lacks these essential cells, you may develop a range of symptoms, including:
- Easy bruising
- Unusual bleeding
- Bone pain
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent infections
You may also develop tiny red spots beneath your skin due to bleeding.
How is myelodysplastic syndrome treated?
Your doctor at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology talks with you about your MDS subtype and prognostic score, which guide the type of treatment that’s best for you.
The overall goal is to put MDS into remission and restore blood counts back to normal levels that can support your ongoing health.
Your treatment at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology always includes a plan to alleviate your symptoms and manage any side effects that may develop due to treatment options such as:
Transfusion and Medications
Some patients may need a transfusion to restore red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. Your doctor may also prescribe growth factors that increase blood cell production or medications to treat infections and lower your risk of developing AML.
You may receive oral oncology treatment, an injection, or an infusion, depending on the medication used for your chemotherapy. The drugs for MDS, called hypomethylating agents, can help blood cells mature, improve blood counts, and lower your risk of AML.
If you have a high risk of developing AML, you may also receive the same standard chemotherapy agents used to treat AML patients.
Bone Marrow Transplant (Stem Cell Transplant)
During a bone marrow transplant, you receive chemotherapy to eliminate the defective blood cells in your bone marrow. Then your abnormal stem cells are replaced with healthy cells.
Bone marrow transplants have a high risk of side effects, so your doctor carefully screens you to be sure you’re a good candidate.
What type of supportive therapy might I receive?
Hunterdon Hematology Oncology offers comprehensive care that includes the convenience of lab work and a pharmacy onsite.
You can also receive dietary guidance and counseling for yourself and your family. If you have chemotherapy, they also offer scalp-cooling treatment that helps to prevent hair loss.
To learn more about treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome, call Hunterdon Hematology Oncology today or schedule an appointment online.