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Myelodysplastic Syndrome: Diagnosis and Staging

Symptoms
Myelodysplastic syndromes may not cause symptoms early on, they are sometimes found during routine blood work. The following are some of the main symptoms caused by MDS, keep in mind these symptoms can also be cause by many other conditions:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or weak
  • paler than usual skin
  • abnormal bruising or bleeding
  • petechiae (small, red pinpoint spots under the skin, caused by bleeding)
  • fever or frequent infection
     

Diagnosis

Physical Exam
If MDS is suspected a physician performing a physical exam may be able to determine whether or not a patient has the condition. Medical history should be taken into account.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A complete blood count is the examination of a sample of blood. The test can determine the number of red blood cells (RBC), hemoglobin, white blood cells (WBC), platelets, and a variety of other blood components. This test is used to diagnose a number of conditions.

Peripheral blood smear
This test can determine the number, type, shape, and size of certain blood cells. It can also determine the amount of iron in the blood.

Cytogenic analysis
This test involves examining a sample of blood or bone marrow under a microscope specifically looking for chromosomal abnormalities.

Bone marrow aspiration/biopsy
This test involves the removal of a sample of bone marrow, blood, and a small piece of bone. The samples are examined under the microscope looking for abnormal cell structure, size, and amount.
 

Classification
Myelodysplastic syndromes are classified based on changes in the blood or bone marrow, but there is no staging system. MDS is grouped depending on how the condition developed.

De novo myelodysplastic syndromes - develop without a known cause

Secondary myelodysplastic syndromes - develop after treatment with chemotherapy or radiation or after being exposed to radiation or other chemicals that are linked to the development of MDS.

Previously treated myelodysplastic syndromes - MDS that has been treated, but returned or never got better