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Myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS is a rare disease and because of this, the affected individual as well as his/her family anxiously wants to know what the myelodysplastic syndrome prognosis is. Because MDS rarely occurs, getting afflicted with it could be terrifying, especially if the affected individual is still young. However, early diagnosis and treatment is the key to successfully manage the symptoms and effects of MDS.

Myelodysplastic syndrome prognosis has improved over the years. Scientists and physicians have gained a deeper understanding of the disorder, learning the factors that increase the risks of developing MDS and discovering more effective treatment methods. This is good news especially since if the disease is left untreated, MDS may lead to more severe conditions and even death.

Cause of Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Myelodysplastic syndrome occurs due to the failure of the bone marrow to produce adequate quantity of healthy blood cells. The bone marrow is responsible for the production of blood cells. It is the sponge-like tissue inside the bones which regulates the production and maturation of each kind of blood cells for a healthy body. When the function of the bone marrow is disturbed, this results in:

  • Failure of blood cells to mature properly.
  • Proliferation of immature blood cells or blasts in the bone marrow, leaving no room for healthy blood cells.

It is not yet fully understood what causes the bone marrow to malfunction, but it has been noted that myelodysplastic syndrome may develop for no specific reason at all, and this is called Primary MDS. Around 80% to 90% of MDS patients suffer from the primary type. On the other hand, MDS may also happen following radiation or chemotherapy and this accounts for the 10% to 20% of MDS cases. This type of MDS is called secondary MDS. Moreover, MDS affects 15 to 50 adults out of 100,000 people, or 4 out of 1 million children.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome – prognosis and risk factors

The Myelodysplastic syndrome prognosis differs with every patient because each case is unique and the response to treatment varies. Besides, some have the risk factors of MDS while others do not. However, even with the absence of the risk factors, the disease may still develop.  The same thing holds true for those who have the risk factors; they may or may not develop the condition. The risk factors of myelodysplastic syndrome include:

  • Age and gender

MDS is more common among male elderly people, usually in their 60s.

  • Genetic predisposition

It has been found that certain genetic syndromes involving abnormal bone marrow functioning increase the chances of MDS, like acute congenital neutropenia, familial platelet syndrome, Fanconi anemia and Shwachman-Diamond syndrome.

  • Lifestyle

Smoking had been found to indirectly cause MDS. It is common knowledge that cigarette smoke contains cancer-causing substances and when these are absorbed in the bloodstream, they spread to different parts of the body.

  • Environmental exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals and radiation increases the chances of MDS. The chemical benzene, as well as other toxic substances, is found to be notorious in causing MDS.

  • Cancer treatment

Radiation therapy, chemotherapy and chemo drugs are believed to cause MDS as well.

Myelodysplastic syndrome prognosis is better for those who haven’t received transplant, and they are expected to live around 3 to 5 years or even over 10 years. However, those who have RAEB-t have poor prognosis and have from 6 months to 1 year only.

Factors that affect Myelodysplastic Syndrome Prognosis

A lot of factors can influence myelodysplastic syndrome prognosis, one of which is the amount of blasts in the bloodstream or bone marrow. Also included are the type of blood cells affected and age of onset of the disease, the type of MDS, the presence of anemia and certain kinds of chromosomal abnormalities.

Diagnosis of Myelodysplastic syndrome

Before, MDS was hard to detect and this was the reason why the disorder used to have a very poor prognosis. However, the prospect of people affected with myelodysplastic syndrome has gotten better as medical experts continue to gain a deeper understanding of its existence. The following conditions warrant the series of diagnostic tests to confirm MDS.

  • Frequent episodes of infections

This condition is an indication that the number of white blood cells is reduced as WBC works in fighting off infections.

  • Bleeds easily

Platelets are the type of blood cells responsible for stopping bleeding, and when the number of platelets has lessened, the person will bruise and bleed easily.

  • Chronic anemia

This occurs when the body has inadequate amounts of red blood cells. The affected individual appears pale, tires easily and breathes faster. He/she may also have fever and notice tiny red spots under the skin.

These symptoms necessitate tests such as physical exam, immunophenotyping, peripheral blood smear, CBC with differential, bone marrow biopsy and cytogenetic analysis to determine the presence of and even stage MDS. With early diagnosis, the doctor can tailor and start the most appropriate treatment plan for the patient.  When done promptly, this will reduce the chances of the condition from worsening and complicating, thus leading to a better myelodysplastic syndrome prognosis.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome life expectancy

Patients who do not have go through transplant can live anywhere between 3 to 10 years, while some even can outlive that period.  Refractory anemia with ringed sideroblasts is the best prognosis in many cases.  In cases, where bone marrow transplant is done with success, long-term remission is experienced.

The life expectancy of Myelodysplastic syndrome patient may be less than one year if the patient is inflicted with RAEB-T. Death causes in many cases are low blood count, leukemia and other unrelated diseases.

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