Myelodysplastic syndromes

Overview

Myelodysplastic syndromes are a group of precancerous conditions that can eventually lead to a form of leukemia called acute myelogenous leukemia, the most common form of leukemia in adults. 

Our approach

Northwell Health takes a sophisticated approach to the treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). The Hematologic Oncology Center, part of Northwell Health Cancer Institute, has been designated a Myelodysplastic Syndromes Center of Excellence by the Myelodyplastic Syndromes Foundation for clinical and research work in MDS.  The regionally and nationally distinguished experts use leading-edge technology and research-backed therapies to treat all stages of MDS.

Myelodysplastic syndromes specialists at the Hematologic Oncology Center offer leading-edge technology to ensure an accurate diagnosis and have extensive experience diagnosing and treating all types and stages of MDS.

Multidisciplinary Myelodysplastic Syndrome Treatment

Within the first several days of a visit, the multidisciplinary team will conduct comprehensive tests and develop a personalized treatment program. 

Highlights of the highly advanced myelodyplastic syndromes treatments and services include:

  • Leading-edge therapies that reduce fatigue, alleviate pain and help the patient stay strong 
  • Innovative approaches to delivering chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies that block the growth and spread of cancer
  • Immunosuppression that boosts the patient’s bone marrow (for some patients with low blood counts)
  • FACT-accredited bone marrow/stem cell transplantation program
  • Blood transfusions

Each myelodysplastic syndromes diagnosis is unique, so the team meets regularly to discuss each patient’s treatment at weekly multidisciplinary conferences where the expert physicians discuss evidence based best practices for delivering collaborative patient care. The specialists review each treatment phase to constantly improve care and ensure treatment milestones are reached. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of myelodysplastic syndromes may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Infections and high fevers
  • Easy bruising and bleeding

Be aware that these symptoms could be due to conditions other than myelodysplastic syndromes, so it’s best to see a doctor right away.

Diagnosis

The first step to making a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndromes is usually a physical, during which a doctor will check for general signs of health and signs of disease such as an enlarged spleen and liver and consider personal and family medical history. If myelodysplastic syndromes are suspected, the patient will receive further tests.  

Specialists use a variety of procedures and tests to deliver an accurate diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndromes as well as to determine if it is an aggressive or slow-moving type.  

  • Blood Tests — Blood tests help the doctor establish what type of MDS is present. One important test is a complete blood count (CBC). This test measures the number of each blood cell type in the blood sample to determine if each type is within the normal range. Other blood tests will be done to check levels of EPO (a protein produced by the kidneys), iron, vitamin B12 and folate as well as the presence of blast cells.
  • Bone Marrow / Needle Aspiration and Biopsy — Sample tissue is taken from bone and bone marrow by inserting a needle into the hipbone or breastbone. This is typically an outpatient procedure. The sample is used in several tests for the diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndromes.
  • Cytogenetic studies — These studies help to determine chromosome changes in bone marrow cells that indicate the presence of myelodysplastic syndromes.
  • Flow cytometry — A lab test that measures the number of cells in a sample of blood or bone marrow, the percentage of live cells, and their size and shape.
  • Histochemistry studies — Physicians look at the bone marrow cells to determine whether the cells look abnormal (dysplastic).
  • Molecular genetic studies — Very sensitive DNA and RNA tests that identify specific genetic traits of the bone marrow cells.

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