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Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a disease that is associated with decreased production of blood cells. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, and the blood cells of people with MDS do not mature normally. There are three major types of blood cells —red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Patients with MDS can have decreased production of one, two, or all three types of blood cells.
Blood cells are used in the body for many different and important functions, such as carrying oxygen (red blood cells), fighting infection (white blood cells), and controlling bleeding (platelets). Blood cells are formed and stored in the bone marrow, which is the spongy tissue inside large bones. Stem cells, or immature blood cells, are stored in the bone marrow and have the ability to develop into all three types of mature blood cells. When the body needs a specific type of blood cell, the bone marrow uses its stockpile of stem cells to produce the kind of mature cells needed for that particular situation.
In patients who have MDS, blood cells fail to mature normally. In other words, the bone marrow is unable to develop a normal amount of mature blood cells, and is also not able to increase blood cell production when mature cells are needed. Sometimes, even the cells that are produced do not function normally. The marrow eventually becomes filled with the immature cells (blasts) and there is
MDS is divided into five different subtypes that are classified according to the number and appearance of blast cells in the bone marrow. It is important for doctors to know the type of MDS a patient has, because each subtype affects patients differently and requires specific treatment. The International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS) can help the doctor to determine the best treatment for an individual patient. The subtypes are as follows:
Author Info: Andrea Ruskin M.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer, 2002
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