Treatment Options

Treatment Options

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) may cause only mild symptoms, with little effect on health, or may be severe. Your doctor will base your treatment plan on the severity of your MDS and the subtype that you have.

Your treatment may also depend on these factors:

  • Your age and overall health
  • Whether your MDS developed after you received chemotherapy or radiation for another disease or were exposed to other known MDS risk factors (you have secondary MDS)
  • Whether you’ve already received treatment for MDS and the disease has not improved

The main goal of treatment is to improve the number of healthy blood cells circulating in your bloodstream. To achieve this, treatment can vary greatly from person to person. Your plan will be customized to you.

Watchful Waiting

If your disease is mild and interferes only a little or not at all with your usual activities, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting. This means you receive no treatment, but you visit your doctor on a regular basis (or if you notice changes) to check your health. Some people with MDS go for several years with no major health changes.

Supportive Care

If you have symptoms from your MDS, your doctor may recommend steps to reduce your symptoms. This is called supportive care. Read about supportive care for MDS.

Disease Treatment

If you have more severe symptoms, your doctor is likely to recommend treatment that goes beyond supportive care. This may include the following:

  • Drug treatment
  • Chemotherapy like that given for acute myelogenous leukemia
  • Bone marrow transplantation

You may need a combination of supportive measures to reduce symptoms and treatments aimed at controlling your underlying disease. Read about disease treatment for MDS.

Your doctor may also recommend other new treatments for MDS.

Clinical Studies

Most patients with MDS receive treatment through clinical studies, also called clinical trials, because these offer a way to get the best and latest treatments. Clinical trials also help improve care for all patients. Your doctor can identify clinical trials that match your circumstances and talk with you about whether and how to participate. If you are eligible for a trial, we strongly recommend you consider this option for yourself. Read more about participating in a study.

American Cancer Society
Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation
National Cancer Institute
National Comprehensive Cancer Network