Saanichton, BC

Dr. Miguel A. Lipka

Myelodysplastic Syndromes

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The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a diverse collection of hematological (blood) conditions linked by ineffective production of myeloid blood cells and risk of transformation to acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

Myelodysplastic syndromes are bone marrow stem cell disorders resulting in disorderly and ineffective blood production manifested by irreversible quantitative and qualitative defects in blood-forming cells.

In a majority of cases, the course of disease is chronic with gradually worsening cytopenias (reduction in the number of blood cells) due to progressive bone marrow failure. Approximately one-third of patients with MDS progress to AML within months to a few years.

Most patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are over age 60. MDS diagnoses are rare in children. Males are slightly more commonly affected than females.

Patients initially visit their doctor because they are experiencing fatigue due to anemia, a condition where there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen. If the anemia is severe, the patient may require red blood cell transfusions.

In addition, some patients have bruising and bleeding due to a low platelet count. Others develop infections because they have fewer white blood cells to fight off infection. MDS also can cause:

  • Fevers and sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss

The severity of symptoms ranges dramatically from one patient to another.

The goals of therapy are to control symptoms, improve quality of life, improve overall survival, and decrease progression to acute myelogenous leukemia. Supportive care with blood product support and hematopoeitic growth factors (e.g. erythropoietin) is the mainstay of therapy. More aggressive treatment can include bone marrow transplant.