Myelodysplastic Syndrome FAQs

What is Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)?

Myelodysplastic syndromes, or MDS, are conditions caused by an abnormality in the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. MDS is a type of cancer and also known as “bone marrow failure disorder.” In this condition, the bone marrow becomes dysplastic and has trouble creating new blood cells in the body. Even the blood cells created may not be normal and die much sooner than normal cells, leaving the individual with deficient blood cells.

While MDS can affect any of the three types of blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets), in most cases, it causes a shortage of red blood cells. This condition is commonly known as anemia.

What are the Early Signs of MDS?

The early signs MDS, are:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Frequent infections
  • Fever
  • Bone pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin color

Some of these signs may be indicative of another condition. Also, many people with MDS do not experience any symptoms or signs. In such cases, the only way to detect this condition is through regular medical checkups. The NCBI recommends annual health examinations and provides a preventive care checklist (PCC) detailing the tests to cover.

What is the Prognosis for MDS?

Once a patient is diagnosed with MDS, the prognosis is determined. The prognosis is difficult, as the likely course of action depends on several factors, including age, gender, general health condition, the number of healthy blood cells in the body and the type of MDS the patient has been diagnosed with.

The first treatment is typically supportive care, which involves red cell transfusions in case of anemia, platelet transfusions to treat patients with low platelet count and antibiotics for the treatment or prevention of infections. Following this, the treatment begins for correcting the bone marrow disorder. So far, the only curative treatment is MDS bone marrow replacement.

Is MDS a Form of Cancer?

Yes, MDS is a form of cancer in which the bone marrow becomes abnormal (dysplastic) and has problems creating new blood cells in the body. Often the blood cells created may be abnormal and die very soon, which leaves the patient with very low blood cells. This is the reason MDS is also called bone marrow failure disorder.