Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a group of cancers related to bone marrow and blood. The center of most bones contains bone marrow. There are two types of bone marrow: red, which contains blood stem cells that transform into red or white blood cells or platelets; and yellow, which is mostly fat and made up of stem cells that become cartilage, fat or bone cells. MDS occurs when the cells that form blood in the bone marrow are abnormal and fail to become healthy blood cells. 

MDS can occur on its own or secondary to other conditions. The treatment approach depends on its severity. In early stage MDS, only supportive treatment is given. In later stages, demethylating agents or even a stem cell or bone marrow transplant may be necessary.

Myelodysplastic syndrome at UK Markey Cancer Center

The Hematology and Blood & Marrow Transplant team treats all cancers related to the blood and lymphatic system, as well as other blood-related diseases, including myelodysplastic syndrome and other conditions that stem from a bone marrow failure. Our team’s diverse expertise offers patients personalized treatment plans suited for their needs.
Markey has provided state-of-the-art cancer care for more than 30 years, and we are proud to be the only comprehensive cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.

MDS can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Fever
  • Frequent infections
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss

Survival rates for people diagnosed with MDS vary depending on the subtype and the severity of the disease. To help determine a prognosis, doctors use a scoring system called the International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS–R). This system takes three factors into account:

  • How many abnormal gene changes are in your bone marrow
  • The levels in your blood of red blood cells, platelets and neutrophils, a type of white blood cell
  • The percentage of immature white blood cells, also called blasts, in your bone marrow

With this system, your doctor can better determine how severe your MDS is and the likelihood that it will turn into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). About 30 percent of patients with MDS will develop AML. 

Patients receiving treatment for less severe forms of MDS can live five years or longer. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 25 percent of adults with AML live three years or longer and some are cured.

You can lower your risk of cancer by taking the following steps to build a healthy lifestyle and improve your overall basic health:

  • Avoid using tobacco products. Tobacco has been tied to multiple cancers, and it is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • Stay physically active. Your physical activity is related to risk for colon and breast cancer. Excess weight gained from inactivity increases the risk of multiple cancers.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can increase the risk for colon, breast, esophageal and oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Learn about screenings. Your primary care doctor can recommend appropriate cancer screenings based on your age, personal risk and family history.
  • For your first visit, you will be directed to the to the Hematology Clinic on the first floor of the Ben Roach Cancer Care Facility.
  • You can register at the front desk or registration area, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment.
  • Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center.
  • Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
  • To meet our patient needs, UK HealthCare accepts many forms of insurance.  

Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. At Markey, we are advancing cancer care and research to prevent, detect and treat cancer one patient at a time. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case, applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.

Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for MDS.

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.