Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)

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

What are myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)?

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.

MDS 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 out more about MDS, including symptoms, diagnosis and treatments, on the MDS UK Patient Support Group and Blood Cancer UK websites.

Facts about MDS

  • MDS is more common in people over the age of 70.
  • There were 229 stem cell transplants in the UK to treat MDS in 2022.
  • MDS and stem cell transplants

    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 allogeneic transplant – when your new stem cells are donated by someone else.

    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, who has had two stem cell transplants to treat her MDS. You can read her story on our blog.

    Last updated: 04/04/24

    Next review due: 04/04/25