Myelodysplastic syndromes, also called MDS, are a group of cancers in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells. Normally, the bone marrow makes red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These cells carry oxygen in the blood, help the body fight infections, and help the blood clot. With MDS, you may feel weak and tired, get infections often, and bleed easily, although symptoms tend to vary.
MDS is a form of blood cancer. In some cases, MDS can turn into acute myeloid leukemia (AML), another type of cancer. Some people develop MDS after treatment for cancer or exposure to pesticides or other chemicals. But in most cases, the cause of MDS is not known.
Your doctor will use the results of tests, including blood tests, to guide your treatment. There are many types of MDS, with different treatment plans for each. If you have enough red blood cells and are feeling all right, you may not need active treatment, but you and your doctor will want to watch your condition carefully. If you start feeling light-headed and have no energy, you may need a blood transfusion. Other treatments include medicines like chemotherapy and stem cell transplants.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.