Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)
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Myelodysplastic syndromes, also known as MDS, are a group of disorders affecting the blood and bone marrow. The bone marrow (the soft, spongy tissue found in the center of large bones) stores immature cells called stem cells. Stem cells normally have the ability to mature into white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets through a process known as hematopoiesis. In the body, white blood cells fight infections, red blood cells carry oxygen, and platelets help the blood to clot normally.
In MDS, hematopoiesis does not occur properly, and the number of blasts (immature cells) and dysplastic (abnormally developed) cells increases. In addition, the number of healthy mature cells decreases, resulting in lower blood cell counts.
People with MDS typically show signs of anemia (decreased red blood cell counts), and may have neutropenia (low white blood cell counts) and thrombocytopenia (decreased numbers of platelets). Chromosomal abnormalities may also be present in the bone marrow cells.
There are several subtypes of MDS, and some subtypes of MDS may eventually develop into acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood in which immature cells (blasts) increase and grow uncontrollably. For more information on AML, read the Guide to Leukemia, Acute Myeloid (AML).
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Approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with MDS each year. Death from MDS is often a consequence of anemia, bleeding, and infection as well as transformation into AML.
Statistics should be interpreted with caution. Estimates are based on data from thousands of cases of MDS in the United States each year, but the actual risk for a particular individual may differ. It is not possible to tell a person how long he or she will live with MDS.
Source: American Cancer Society.
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