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Myelodysplastic syndrome diagnosis

If your health care provider believes you may have MDS, 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.

Your provider will also give you a physical exam. You may have one or more of the following tests.

  • Blood tests

    Blood tests can be done to help determine if you have MDS. A complete blood count measures levels of red and white blood cells, as well as platelets. Low levels of these can signal a problem. The test can also detect myeloblasts in the blood, which are young blood cells usually only found in bone marrow. The presence of these blasts can be a sign of MDS. However, additional bone marrow tests are needed to verify a diagnosis of MDS.

  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

    A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are performed at the same time to diagnose and determine the type of MDS. The skin over the hip and the bone surface is numbed, and a long needle is inserted into the bone to take out a small amount of bone marrow. Then the biopsy is done with a slightly larger needle, removing tissue or cells from the bone marrow, blood or bone to be checked by a pathologist under a microscope.

  • Test results

    Patients will be contacted after tests by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

  • Second opinions

    When you are diagnosed with MDS, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

    Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent MDS, with a focus on individualized patient care. 

    Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the one and only NCI-designated cancer program in Kentucky, Markey can serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including MDS.

    Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

  • Should I get a second opinion?

    A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating MDS. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

    • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis
    • A dedicated team specialized in MDS may not be available in your area
    • There may be uncertainty around the stage of MDS
    • You may want to learn more about treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey
    • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment

    Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

    After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

    • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
    • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
    • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
    • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
    • What are the side effects of treatment?
    • How long are treatment recovery periods?

Learn More

Follow-up Care