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Myelodysplastic Syndromes Treatment Options

Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are two common forms of blood cancer, however there are others such as myelodysplasia, or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). MDS is a disorder that is caused by impaired blood cells—or not enough production of them—in the bone marrow. When blood cells don’t mature, they fail to become healthy and, consequently, don’t perform as they should to keep your body healthy.

While some MDS may have no known cause, others may be caused by toxic chemicals, or even by exposure to chemotherapy or radiation. Myelodysplastic syndrome causes lead to the failure of blood cells to perform properly.

According to the American Cancer Society, MDS is uncommon in people under 50 and most commonly diagnosed in those over 70. But, while most patients who have MDS are older, the syndrome also can affect younger populations.

Symptoms of Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Because MDS causes low blood cell counts, they are also found through routine blood tests. Patients diagnosed this way generally have not yet been experiencing any symptoms.

Patients with MDS often have low blood cell counts, also known as cytopenias. Cytopenias can cause anemia, spontaneous bleeding, infection, or bruising—these are some of the warning signs of MDS.

When the bone marrow does not produce mature, healthy cells it is considered a gradual process—so MDS isn’t necessarily terminal. However, about 30 percent of those with MDS will progress into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). When AML is caught early, and treated effectively, outcomes can be very positive.

Treatment for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

RWJBarnabas Health’s team of specialists diagnose and treat myelodysplasia with the latest treatment options. Myelodysplasia or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) can be treated with one or a combination of these treatments:

  • Supportive therapy such as red blood cell transfusions to increase hemoglobin and iron levels and improve the amount of oxygen in the blood
  • Growth factors, or hormone-like substances, to help trigger blood cell growth in bone marrow
  • Chemotherapy (including hypomethylating drugs) to kill the cancer cells and lead to remission
  • Stem cell transplants, which can cure MDS, involve the use of high-dose chemotherapy and/or total body irradiation to kill defunct cells and replace them with healthy blood-forming stem cells. The American Cancer Society identifies two types of transplants: allogeneic and autologous. Allogenic transplants use cells from a donor, while autologous transplants use the patient’s own blood cells.

The right treatment for you will depend on a variety of factors. Once diagnosed, you will consult with your provider and care team to find the best treatment approach for you and to create your treatment plan.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome Prognosis

Thanks to ongoing research and innovation in the diagnosis and treatment of MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome prognosis has improved over the years. The key is an early and accurate diagnosis followed by the right treatment regime for you.

RWJBarnabas Health in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center provides patients with access to the most advanced treatment options for MDS including clinical trials. Every aspect of care, from state-of-the-art diagnostics to leading-edge treatments, is customized to your individual needs and treatment goals.

To contact one of New Jersey’s best blood cancer specialists call
844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.




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