Not too long ago, a national, television journalist announced that they were diagnosed with something called MDS. It was the host of “Good Morning America”, Robin Roberts, who reported that she had recently been diagnosed with MDS or myelodysplastic syndrome. She also stated that she had acquired MDS as a result of her initial battle with breast cancer. Robin Roberts is not only a national TV personality, but she is also a local celebrity here on the Gulf Coast. I was captivated by this obviously emotional announcement and the heartfelt outpouring given by Robin on her television show in front of millions of people. Thus, my interest prompted further investigation of how myelodysplastic syndrome affects the bone marrow and blood cells. Journal research from scientific, scholarly sources was necessary to know and understand exactly what type of challenges Robin Roberts is about to face in the weeks ahead.
The Investigation of MDS
According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center (2009), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) is the name for a group of various disorders that affect the bone marrow. Bone marrow is where red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are produced (MFMER, 2011). MDS primarily occurs in the elderly population in ages 65 and older, but MDS can affect younger patients as well. Bone marrow produces immature blood cells often referred to as stem cells, progenitor cells, or blasts (Aggarwal, S., Van de Loosdrecht, A., Alhan, C., Ossenkoppele, G. J., Westers, T. M., &
Bontkes, H. J. 2011). Stem cells mature with time then circulate through the body’s blood stream. If the cells do not mature, they can stagnate in the bone marrow or have a shorter life span, causing fewer than normal mature blood cells in the circulation. Immature blood cells are abnormal in shape and appearance.
MDS is not an absolute death sentence, but often time’s patients are at risk for infection and bleeding due to the lack of platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells. Almost 30% of all patients with MDS develop acute myeloid or myelogenous leukemia (AML) (MD Anderson, 2009; Aggarwal et al., 2011; Le Roux et al., 2010). The American Cancer Society (2012) also affirms that only 1 out of 3 MDS patients get leukemia or AML, thus MDS is considered to be a form of cancer all by itself due to the risk of developing cancer. There are several types and subtypes of MDS based primarily on what causes the disease and what symptoms are displayed by the patient. A classification system was developed by the World Health Organization, but the details will not be discussed in this disease review due to the complexity of each type of MDS.
What Causes MDS?
The Mayo clinic states that certain factors place and individual at risk for myelodysplastic syndromes such as male gender, age greater than 60 years old, and exposure to tobacco, lead mercury or pesticides (MFMER, 2011). The exact causes of MDS are unknown. Some people just...