What is MDS?

June 11, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Roberts says she is now beginning chemotherapy treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS. It is a blood and bone marrow disease once known as pre-leukemia. It is a condition where the blood cells become abnormal and don't function well.

Patients can suffer a variety of side effects, including anemia or risk of infection.

MDS is more likely to show up in older patients for an undetermined reason. But in a small number of cases it can be caused by prior chemotherapy treatments. That's what is suspected in Roberts' case.

Dr. Stephanie Gregory at the Rush University Cancer Center says, even though this is unusual, she is seeing an increase in MDS cases like Roberts'. Gregory say that is because more people are surviving cancer.

"The way we cure cancer today is by chemotherapy usually," said Gregory. "You may combine chemotherapy with radiation, and those drugs if they cure the patient probably have given a little bit of damage to the bone marrow, and depending on how much damage has occurred to the bone marrow, stem cell patients may develop the therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome."

Some people who have MDS can go on to develop leukemia.

The approach to curing MDS is a bone marrow transplant, which Roberts will have in the coming months.

Roberts says her prognosis is great and her sister, who is a perfect match, will be the donor.

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