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Is Myelodysplasis (MDS) a form or cancer or leukemia?

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Quick Answer

Myelodysplastic syndrome is a type of cancer affecting bone marrow, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some forms of the condition can progress to acute myeloid leukemia.

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Full Answer

While the myeloid stem cells in bone marrow normally mature into white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, those in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome do not function as they should, dying in the bone marrow or after entering the bloodstream, explains the National Cancer Institute. A doctor diagnoses the type of myelodysplastic syndrome based on changes in the bone marrow. The condition may progress to acute myeloid leukemia if the patient has refractory anemia and 5 to 19 percent of cells within the bone marrow are blasts or if the patient has refractory cytopenia.

Patients who have previously undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, been exposed to heavy metals such as lead or chemicals such as those in tobacco smoke are at a higher risk of developing myelodysplastic syndrome, notes the National Cancer Institute. To make a diagnosis, a doctor completes a physical examination along with tests such as a complete blood count, peripheral blood smear, cytogenetic analysis, blood chemistry study and a bone marrow biopsy and aspiration. The chances of recovery depend on several factors, including the number of blast cells in the bone marrow.

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