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Myelodysplastic Syndrome diagnosis

If your healthcare provider believes you may have myelodysplastic syndrome, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure.

You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

The first step is for the doctor to take a complete medical history to check for risk factors and symptoms. Following your physical exam, you may have one of the following tests:

  • Blood Tests. Your doctors will want to check for possible causes of low blood counts. For example, low levels of iron, vitamin B12, or folate can cause anemia. If one of these is found to be abnormal, a diagnosis of MDS is much less likely. 
  • Bone Marrow Tests. Testing bone marrow can help tell how advanced your case of myelodysplastic syndrome is. As a result, bone marrow tests are often done before beginning treatment. They might also be repeated during or after treatment to examine the progress being made.  
  • Risk factors

    There are a number of risk factors for myelodyplastic syndrome, including:

    • Older age. Older age is one of the most important risk factors for MDS. It is uncommon to develop myelodyplastic syndrome under the age of 50, and most cases are found in people in their 70s or 80s.
    • Gender. Myelodyplastic syndrome is more co mmon among men than women.
    • Chemotherapy. Patients that have been treated with certain chemo drugs for cancer are more likely to develop myelodyplastic syndrome.
    • Smoking. Smoking increases the risk of myelodyplastic syndrome. While many people know that smoking can cause lung cancer, it is also detrimental to other parts of your body and can lead to other forms of cancer.
    • Underlying myeloproliferative disease. Sometimes this disease will progresses slowly and requires little treatment, while in other cases it may develop into acute myeloid leukemia and require additional care from your doctors.
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of myelodysplastic syndrome often do not experience symptoms, but if so they include:

    • Fatigue.
    • Shortness of breath.
  • When to see a doctor

    Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.