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Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)

Myelodysplastic syndromes, or MDS, is a group of diseases in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells. Also called preleukemia and smoldering leukemia. When you have MDS, your bone marrow doesn’t totally stop working, it still makes blood cells. It makes fewer cells, and the cells it does make don’t always work right.

The cause of MDS is unknown in about 70-80 out of 100 people who have it. In the other 20-30 people who have MDS, it may be caused by treatment for another disease. MDS is more common in smokers and is more common in people who have spent time around or worked with chemicals like benzene. It is also more common in those 60 years or older and is rare in young people.

Some of the symptoms of MDS are fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, bruising easily, bleeding for no reason, and frequent infections. Symptoms of MDS can be managed by blood transfusions, antibiotics to help or control infection and growth factors that help healthy or normal cells make more cells.

Tests that are done to determine if you have MDS are blood tests and bone marrow biopsy. Once diagnosis is confirmed the doctor will go over treatment options with you. Options for treatment may consist of demethylating agents to help bone marrow make blood cells normally, immunosuppressive drug therapy to help make blood cells more slowly, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, and/or stem cell transplant. A treatment plan that is best for you will be decided upon by you and your healthcare team.

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