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Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of blood disorders that cause your bone marrow to produce too many blood cells.

These cells are often unhealthy (dysplastic) and are destroyed soon after leaving the bone marrow. People with MDS feel very tired, weak and bleed or bruise more easily because they cannot produce enough healthy blood cells.

Although MDS are not cancers themselves, they can sometimes develop into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). All types of MDS are placed into low and high risk groups based on how likely this is to happen. It also helps your doctor select the most effective treatment option for you.

You can find more information on MDS from the MDS UK Patient Support Group, Cancer Research UK and Blood Cancer UK websites.

MDS facts

Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)

Cell type: 
Bone marrow and its production of blood cells

Roughly 1 in 20,000 people develop MDS

UK transplants:
242 in 2019

More common in people over 70

Blood transfusions and possibly a stem cell transplant in aggressive cases 

Other information:
Not classed as a blood cancer but can develop into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

MDS UK Patient Support Group
Cancer Research UK

Stem cell transplants and MDS

If you have low risk MDS, you may not need treatment straight away but regular blood transfusions and medication can help manage your symptoms. Some people with more severe MDS have chemotherapy and a small number of people may need to have a stem cell transplant. This will be an allograft transplant – when your new stem cells are donated by someone else.

Living with MDS

You need to make the most of the days when you’re feeling good, instead of giving in to your condition. It can be all too easy to let someone else do all the hoovering and cooking, and just sit on the sofa, instead of getting out for a walk or a run.

Emma has had two stem cell transplants to treat her MDS. You can read her story here

Many more patient stories are available in our Blogs section.

Information published: 12/02/21
Next review due: 12/02/24

Related links

Preparing for a stem cell transplant

Having a stem cell transplant

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