Myelodysplastic syndromes, often called MDS or myelodysplasia, are conditions that affect the blood-forming cells in someone’s bone marrow. Chances are you haven’t heard of this disease, but every year approximately 20,000 Americans get diagnosed with MDS. It often affects people older than 70, as the chances of developing it are increasing as you age. MDS leads to serious complications & symptoms. This is why everyone should know how to recognize MDS and what to do if you suspect you, or a loved one, is suffering from it.
What Are Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)?
Myelodysplasia is a group of cancers that prevent someone’s blood stem cells from growing into healthy blood cells. Often this happens because something is wrong with the patient’s bone marrow – the spongy material on the inside of the bones. In a healthy patient, the bone marrow makes new, healthy, immature blood cells, eventually growing into mature blood cells. After a certain period, there are more defective blood cells than healthy and oxygenated blood cells, leading to serious complications, like severe anemia and (acute) myeloid leukemia.
Types of Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)
MDS is called Myelodysplastic syndromes, which of course, means it plural. It’s divided into subtypes based on the type of blood cells and how many blood cells cancer affects. It also depends on whether the bone marrow’s genetic material is normal. Myelodysplastic syndromes are:
- Myelodysplastic syndromes with single-lineage dysplasia; one blood type is low in numbers and looks abnormal.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes with multilineage dysplasia; two or three types are low in numbers and look abnormal.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes with ring sideroblasts; One or more types are low in numbers, and red blood cells have a ring of excess iron on them.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes with isolated del(5q) chromosome abnormality; low numbers of red blood cells and a specific mutation in its DNA.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes with excess blasts; one of three blood types is low in numbers and looks abnormal. There are also very immature blood cells (blasts) found.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes, unclassifiable; reduced numbers of one (or more) blood types and may look abnormal. They can also look normal, but have DNA changes that are associated with MSD.
Continue reading on the next page and, among others, find out what causes MSD and how you can recognize it.