Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a group of diseases where the bone marrow doesn't produce enough healthy blood cells. Instead, it makes too many underdeveloped cells, known as blasts. These blasts die in the bone marrow or soon after entering the bloodstream, causing too few healthy blood cells and low blood counts.
In its gentlest form, MDS may be anemia, low platelets or low white blood count, but about 10% to 20% of diagnosed cases progress to acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
In the early stages MDS often doesn't have any symptoms. If there are signs, they may be vague or like those for other medical conditions such as fatigue and fever.
Blood tests and bone marrow tests can be used to find out if you have myelodysplastic syndrome.
Who is at risk?
"Environmental factors can increase the risk of MDS," says Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D. professor in MD Anderson's Department of Leukemia For example, it can impact people who smoke tobacco and people exposed to high levels of radiation and chemicals, such as benzene and other toxic substances.
"Most patients with MDS are older individuals, 65 and up, more frequently males, and they may or may not have had prior history of exposure," Garcia-Manero says.