Lifestyle Changes to Manage Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)
by Ricker Polsdorfer, MD
Lifestyle changes may not directly affect the cancer, but can play an important role in overall physical and mental health. Some benefits include:
Smoking is a known risk factor for many cancers and other health disorders. It can also increase the risk of complications from medical procedures and slow tissue healing.
When you quit smoking, the body immediately begins to repair itself. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight MDS and improve recovery from treatment.
Reduce Your Risk of Infection
MDS and its treatments reduce the body's ability to respond to infections. This can increase the risk of infection, or increase the severity of common infections, like a cold or the flu. To decrease the risk of infection:
Make Dietary Changes
A healthful diet can help your body and mind. Your diet can provide fuel to help your body function at its best, and nutrition to help tissue heal and recover. Mood and overall energy will also be better with proper nutritional support.
Cancer itself and some cancer treatments can reduce appetite. It becomes important to make the most of the calories that are eaten. A registered dietitian can help manage challenges that may be found with MDS, and its treatments and complications.
If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to choose a safe exercise program. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment including:
You may consider consulting with a personal trainer to help you set exercise goals and to safely follow through on initiating an exercise program. While adding exercise, be sure to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired.
Fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of MDS and its treatments. To help avoid getting overtired, prioritize tasks and focus on the most important ones. It is important to allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. If needed, plan time throughout the day for rest.
If fatigue is affecting quality of life, talk to your doctor.
Small injuries may become worse because of MDS. Spontaneous bleeding may occur from small wounds or while brushing your teeth. Bleeding may also come from your nose, rectum, vagina, or urinary tract. Report any bleeding to your doctor. Prolonged pressure on a bleeding site may eventually stop the bleeding, but medical treatment is needed to prevent it from recurring.
The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that can be difficult to handle. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, lifestyle changes, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming. It is important to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional balance. Other sources of support include:
Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
MDS is especially difficult because it may be found in advanced stages, making it harder to treat. Some people choose treatments to ease cancer complications or choose to stop treatment completely. Depending on your circumstances, it may be realistic to begin end-of-life planning. Considerations may include:
If you need guidance, talk to a member of your healthcare team. You can be referred to a trained professional to guide you through the process.
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Myelodysplastic syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version website Available at:
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Updated January 2017. Accessed June 30, 2017.
Stay healthy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/healthy.html. Accessed June 30, 2017.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloproliferative/patient/myelodysplastic-treatment-pdq#section/_49. Updated August 12, 2015. Accessed June 30, 2017.
Last reviewed June 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 6/22/2016
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