It's important that your doctor is experienced in treating MDS patients or works in consultation with a hematologist oncologist who has experience treating MDS patients.
Types of MDS Treatment
Doctors use several types of approaches and treatment combinations for MDS:
- Blood transfusions
- Blood cell growth factor therapy
- Antithymocyte globulin therapy
- Chemotherapy and drug therapy
- Stem cell transplantation
- Your doctor may suggest that you participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials can involve therapy with new drugs and new drug combinations or new approaches to stem cell transplantation.
Finding the Best Treatment Approach
The treatment your doctor recommends is based on several factors, including:
- Whether you're in the low-risk or high-risk category
- Your MDS subtype
- Your overall health
- Other health conditions you may have, called comorbidities, such as heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease or diabetes
The goals of MDS treatment for low-risk patients are to:
- Manage the disease by reducing blood transfusion needs
- Decrease infection risk
The goal of MDS treatment for high-risk patients is to achieve and stay in remission or cure the disease. The only therapy used that can potentially cure MDS is allogeneic stem cell transplantation. But this procedure has a high risk risk of serious complications. This treatment is not for all patients.
Your treatment options also depend on whether you're being treated for MDS that:
- Hasn't responded to initial therapy (refractory)
- Has returned (relapsed)
As you develop a treatment plan with your doctor, be sure to discuss:
- The results you can expect from treatment
- Potential side effects, including long-term and late effects
- The possibility of participating in a clinical trial, where you'll have access to advanced medical treatment that may be more beneficial to you than standard treatment
Whether you're newly diagnosed with MDS or undergoing treatment the second time around, you'll probably have questions for your doctor and other members of your care team.
You may find it helpful to bring a loved one with you to your doctor's visits for support and to take notes and ask follow-up questions. It's a good idea to prepare questions you'd like to ask when you visit your doctor. You can also record your conversations with your doctor and listen more closely when you get home.
Click here to download lists of suggested questions to ask your healthcare providers.
Other Treatment Considerations
- If you're age 60 or older - like most people with MDS - your treatment may vary from standard approaches. For instance, your body may not be able to tolerate toxic chemotherapy drugs or you may have other ailments that are more common as we age. These factors, among others, may make choosing a treatment more complicated.
- If your child is being treated for MDS, therapy may differ from that of the average adult. See Childhood MDS.