About

Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)


About Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are cancers that originate in the bone marrow and affect the growth of blood cells so the body cannot function properly. In about one out of every three patients, MDS progresses into acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a disease in which blood cells grow uncontrollably.

Originally, myelodysplastic syndromes were regarded as pre-leukemic conditions, and they were only classified as distinct disorders in 1976. In the general population, MDS is relatively rare; however, in patients over age 60, it is estimated that the incidence is between 20-50 per every 100,000 people.


In myelodysplastic syndromes, the blood stem cells do not develop and mature into healthy platelets, red blood cells, or white blood cells. Because the blood cells remain immature, they do not function properly and die either in the blood marrow or shortly after entering the bloodstream. Subsequently, there are not enough healthy blood cells in your body

There are several recognized factors that may raise the risk of developing myelodysplastic syndromes.

  • Older age: Most cases of MDS are diagnosed in people in their 70s and 80s
  • Gender: MDS is more common in men than in women; the reason for this is unknown
  • Cancer treatment: Prior cancer treatment with certain chemotherapy drugs puts people at a higher risk for MDS
  • Genetic syndromes: People with specific inherited syndromes are at higher risk for developing MDS. Examples of associated genetic diseases include: Fanconi anemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, familial platelet disorder with a propensity to myeloid malignancy, severe congenital neutropenia, and dyskeratosis congenita
  • Familial MDS: A gene mutation that runs in the family can lead to a higher incidence of MDS
  • Smoking: Carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke are absorbed into your blood as it passes through your lungs, thereby spreading to many parts of the body
  • Environmental exposure: Long-term exposure to chemicals, such as benzene and others that are used in the rubber and petroleum industries, can increase the risk of MDS. In addition, exposure to high-dose radiation (for example – a nuclear reactor accident) increases your risks

Myelodysplastic syndromes lead to low blood cell counts, and many of the early symptoms of MDS are therefore related to shortages of one or more types of blood cells.

Anemia (having too few red blood cells) can cause:

  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches

Leukopenia (having too few white blood cells) can cause:

  • Frequent or severe infections

Thrombocytopenia (having too few platelets) can cause:

  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Frequent or severe nosebleeds
  • Bleeding from the gums

Other general symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

There are several types of MDS, depending on how the blood and bone marrow cells have been affected. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) classification system, MDS is categorized based on how the cells appear under a microscope and how many abnormal cells are present.

Using these variables, the WHO system defines six main types of myelodysplastic syndromes:

  1. MDS with multilineage dysplasia (MDS-MLD): two or more types of blood cells are affected
  2. MDS with single lineage dysplasia (MDS-SLD): the red blood cells are most significantly affected
  3. MDS with ring sideroblasts (MDS-RS): the red blood cells cannot process the iron that is necessary for producing hemoglobin, and instead the iron forms a ring around the nucleus of developing red blood cells
  4. MDS with excess blasts (MDS-EB): one or more types of blood cells are affected, and there are excess blast cells in the bone marrow and blood
  5. MDS with isolated del(5q): the red blood cells are affected, causing anemia, and there is only a small quantity of blast cells in the bone marrow and blood
  6. MDS, unclassifiable (MDS-U)

MDS can also be defined based on the clinical classification, which refers to the underlying cause of the disease. If no cause can be identified, it is called primary MDS; this is the more common type. When the cause of the disease is known, it is termed secondary MDS. Diagnosing MDS as primary or secondary is essential for determining the best course of treatment.


What is MDS?

In myelodysplastic syndromes, the blood stem cells do not develop and mature into healthy platelets, red blood cells, or white blood cells. Because the blood cells remain immature, they do not function properly and die either in the blood marrow or shortly after entering the bloodstream. Subsequently, there are not enough healthy blood cells in your body.

 

What are the Risk Factors for MDS?

There are several recognized factors that may raise the risk of developing myelodysplastic syndromes.

  • Older age: Most cases of MDS are diagnosed in people in their 70s and 80s
  • Gender: MDS is more common in men than in women; the reason for this is unknown
  • Cancer treatment: Prior cancer treatment with certain chemotherapy drugs puts people at a higher risk for MDS
  • Genetic syndromes: People with specific inherited syndromes are at higher risk for developing MDS. Examples of associated genetic diseases include: Fanconi anemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, familial platelet disorder with a propensity to myeloid malignancy, severe congenital neutropenia, and dyskeratosis congenita
  • Familial MDS: A gene mutation that runs in the family can lead to a higher incidence of MDS
  • Smoking: Carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke are absorbed into your blood as it passes through your lungs, thereby spreading to many parts of the body
  • Environmental exposure: Long-term exposure to chemicals, such as benzene and others that are used in the rubber and petroleum industries, can increase the risk of MDS. In addition, exposure to high-dose radiation (for example – a nuclear reactor accident) increases your risks

 

What Are the Symptoms of MDS?

Myelodysplastic syndromes lead to low blood cell counts, and many of the early symptoms of MDS are therefore related to shortages of one or more types of blood cells.

Anemia (having too few red blood cells) can cause:

  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
    Headaches

Leukopenia (having too few white blood cells) can cause:

  • Frequent or severe infections

Thrombocytopenia (having too few platelets) can cause:

  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Frequent or severe nosebleeds
  • Bleeding from the gums

Other general symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

 

How Many Types of MDS Are There?

There are several types of MDS, depending on how the blood and bone marrow cells have been affected. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) classification system, MDS is categorized based on how the cells appear under a microscope and how many abnormal cells are present.

Using these variables, the WHO system defines six main types of myelodysplastic syndromes:

  1. MDS with multilineage dysplasia (MDS-MLD): two or more types of blood cells are affected
  2. MDS with single lineage dysplasia (MDS-SLD): the red blood cells are most significantly affected
  3. MDS with ring sideroblasts (MDS-RS): the red blood cells cannot process the iron that is necessary for producing hemoglobin, and instead the iron forms a ring around the nucleus of developing red blood cells
  4. MDS with excess blasts (MDS-EB): one or more types of blood cells are affected, and there are excess blast cells in the bone marrow and blood
  5. MDS with isolated del(5q): the red blood cells are affected, causing anemia, and there is only a small quantity of blast cells in the bone marrow and blood
  6. MDS, unclassifiable (MDS-U)

MDS can also be defined based on the clinical classification, which refers to the underlying cause of the disease. If no cause can be identified, it is called primary MDS; this is the more common type. When the cause of the disease is known, it is termed secondary MDS. Diagnosing MDS as primary or secondary is essential for determining the best course of treatment.

 

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