Cancer In Depth: Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
MDS refers to a group of bone marrow disorders. New blood cells (called blasts) do not grow into mature, healthy blood cells. It can cause problems with the immune system, oxygen levels in the body, bleeding, and more.
Normal Anatomy and the Development of MDS
All blood cells start in the bone marrow. They begin as stem cells. These cells mature into:
Blood cells need to be replaced often. If new ones are not made it will lead to low levels of blood cells in the body. With MDS, stem cells are made but do not fully mature. They crowd the bone marrow and make it hard for healthy cells to grow. They also move out into the blood. These early cells cannot do the work of healthy blood cells. It can lead to a wide range of symptoms.
Primary MDS is caused by a problem in the genes. It affects how the cell develops. It is not always known what causes the change. Secondary MDS is linked to prior cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both cause bone marrow damage. It may lead to damaged stem cells.
Types of MDS
Blood and bone marrow cells are tested in a lab. The results help with how MDS is classified. Types of MDS based on The World Health Organization (WHO) classification include:
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Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/15/2019
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