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.
Name: Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)
Cell type: Bone marrow and its production of blood cells
Frequency: Roughly 1 in 20,000 people develop MDS
UK transplants: 217 in 2016
Risk: More common in people over 70
Treatment: Blood transfusions and possibly a stem cell transplant in aggressive cases
Other info: Not classed as a blood cancer but can develop into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
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.
‘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 about her story here
Some of our transplant recipients have also been kind enough to share their experience of treatment for MDS. You can read their stories here: