Myelodysplastic Syndrome (with copper ring) (Source: Shutterstock)
Definition of myelodysplastic syndromes
"Myelodysplastic syndromes" is an umbrella term for various bone marrow diseases that occur predominantly in patients in their second stage of life. Essentially, these are symptoms that do not "fit" into other types of cancer such as leukaemia and are summarised under this term.
In this group of bone marrow diseases, blood formation does not proceed from healthy but from genetically modified original cells (stem cells). The body of patients suffering from myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is no longer able to produce fully mature and functional blood cells from these stem cells. Myelodysplastic syndrome is also a "side effect" of several drugs such as cytostatics.
Symptoms of myelodysplastic syndromes
As the disease progresses, sudden bleeding in the gums, nose and - especially - stomach and intestines occurs more frequently.
Haematomas develop all over the body, from the face to the feet. Furthermore, those affected are highly susceptible to infections of all kinds and must avoid large numbers of people at all costs.
In advanced stages of these diseases increasing numbers of immature blood cells are produced. The process of blood formation is therefore permanently impaired and can lead to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in some patients at a later stage. Patients gradually lose more and more of their strength.
The Hb level and the hematocrit, i.e. the measured value for the distribution of the solid and liquid components, decrease dramatically. One tries to stop this either by weekly or fortnightly blood transfusions or by a weekly injection of erythropoietin.
At the same time, the number of thrombocytes that are responsible for blood coagulation and the number of leukocytes, the white blood cells responsible for immune defense, also decrease significantly.
Diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndromes
A final diagnosis can only be made by microscopy. Bone marrow smears or punch biopsies are required. Although there is often a reduction in blood cell count, many patients are asymptomatic.