The prognosis for any patient with myelodysplastic syndromes hinges on the specifics of his case, but the disease is terminal for some patients, and approximately 30 percent develop acute myeloid leukemia, the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation reports. AML is especially likely to develop in MDS patients exposed to radiation or chemotherapy.
MDS refers to a collection of disorders that lead to a patient’s bone marrow producing healthy blood cells in reduced amounts, as the MDS Foundation explains. These reduced blood cell counts lead to potentially lethal symptoms, including sudden bleeding, easy bruising, anemia and a very high likelihood of infection. MDS typically develops in patients over the age of 65, but it has also been reported in younger patients.
The causes of MDS are usually unknown, but it appears likely that some people are congenitally predisposed to develop the disease if they are stimulated by external factors, such as chemotherapy, radiation exposure and long-term exposure to some chemicals, including benzene. Patients who have received chemotherapy or radiation treatment may be likely to develop MDS for 10 years after treatment, explains the MDS Foundation. Although the full list of chemicals that may cause MDS is not yet known, some occupations, such as coal mining and embalming, increase the risk of developing MDS. MDS that is caused by an external stimulus is secondary MDS, while MDS that arises due to no clear external cause is primary MDS.