Myelodysplasia Treated by Mercy’s Hematologists in Baltimore


This 3D animation describes the components of human blood.

At Medical Oncology and Hematology at Mercy, our doctors are known for their experience indiagnosing and treating all types of blood disorders including myelodysplastic syndrome. 

About the Condition

Myelodysplastic syndrome, formerly known as preleukemia, is a group of blood disorders caused by immature and defective blood cells. These unhealthy blood cells die in the bone marrow and ultimately outgrow  the number of healthy blood cells. With unhealthy blood cells, patients with myelodysplastic syndrome are susceptible to infection, anemia or easy bleeding.

Types of Myelodysplastic Syndrome

There are different types of myelodysplastic syndrome based on the type of blood cells (red cells, white cells and platelets).  Types of myelodysplastic syndrome include:

  • Refractory anemia – too few red blood cells and the patient is anemic
  • Refractory anemia with ring sideroblasts – insufficient red blood cells containing excess amounts of iron (ring sideroblasts)
  • Refractory anemia with excess blasts – low number of abnormal red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets with immature blood cells (blasts). This myelodysplastic syndrome could lead to acute myeloid leukemia
  • Refractory cytopenia with multilineage dysplasia – two of the three types of blood cells are abnormal with less than one percent of the blood cells that are immature
  • Unclassified myelodysplastic syndrome -  reduction in one of the three types of mature blood cells
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome associated with isolated del (5q) chromosome – Not enough red blood cells in the blood with a specific defect in the DNA

Risk Factors for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

There are certain risk factors associated with myelodysplastic syndrome. The risk factors include the following:

  • Male, age 60 or older
  • Prior treatment of chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, like pesticides, fertilizers, tobacco smoke and benzene
  • Exposure to mercury or lead
NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

In the early stages of myelodysplastic syndrome, there are seldom any signs or symptoms of the disease. As myelodysplastic syndrome disease progresses, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Petechiae  - flat, pinpoint spots under the skin caused by bleeding
  • Recurrent infections
  • Shortness of breath

If your medical oncologist suspects myelodysplastic syndrome disease, a physical exam and medical history are conducted. In addition, a complete blood count (CBC) and bone marrow biopsy may be used for diagnosing the disease. 

NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

To date, there is no cure for myelodysplastic syndrome disease. Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms to help determine the best treatment option for your individual condition. Although there is no cure for myelodysplastic syndrome, some patients may receive the following treatments:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Bone marrow stem cell transplant
  • Supportive care to manage fatigue, infections and bleeding
  • Medications