Treatment looks different for different people, depending on your diagnosis. We tailor your treatment plan to you.
Our myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) specialists work closely with you, your family and each other to get you back to health. At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, we provide all standard therapies for MDS and offer you access to the latest innovations through clinical trials.
Treatment Plan | Treatment Process | Monitoring Your Health | Supportive Care Services | Continuing Care
Myelodysplastic syndrome treatment at Fred Hutch is highly customized for each patient’s needs.
Your Fred Hutch medical oncologist works with an entire group of MDS specialists. They include other medical oncologists and researchers who are looking for better ways to treat this disease.
Every week, this team gathers to discuss their patients’ treatment plans. This approach means each patient benefits from the experience of the whole group.
With support from the larger team, your physician will:
Your medical oncologist will walk you and your caregiver through the treatment plan that has been recommended for you. You will have a chance to share your personal preferences and options, and you will decide together what happens next.
There is no one way to treat everyone. Some people need infusions or other medications. Other people need chemotherapy. They might need a blood or marrow transplant. Or they may not need any active treatment for years, but they should be carefully monitored over time. This is called watchful waiting.
At Fred Hutch, our standard always involves caring for you as a whole person. We help you get relief from side effects and provide many other forms of support, like integrative medicine, nutrition counseling and physical therapy.
Our patients can also choose to have promising new MDS therapies that you can only get through a clinical trial. Many people come to Fred Hutch for access to these studies. Your care team will tell you about studies that might be right for you, so you can think about joining them.
Different subtypes of MDS start, progress and respond to treatments in different ways. We choose, combine and schedule your treatments based on what works for your subtype. Your care team makes sure you understand each type of treatment and all your choices.
Some patients do not need treatment right away. This approach allows your physician to watch your condition but not start treatment until it is needed.
Patients may think that they should have treatment right away. But “watch and wait” with monitoring lets you avoid the side effects of therapy. Watch and wait involves careful monitoring that includes regular exams and blood tests. If you start to have signs or symptoms that appear or change, your physician will recommend starting treatment.
The goal of supportive care in MDS treatment is to improve quality of life by reducing symptoms caused by low blood cell counts.
Treating Low Red Blood Cell Counts
Patients with symptoms of low red blood cell counts, like extreme tiredness, dizziness and shortness of breath, may have treatment to increase their red blood cell counts. These treatments may include red blood cell infusions and medications that help the bone marrow make more red blood cells.
Treating Low Platelet Counts
Some MDS patients may have low platelet counts that can cause easy bruising or uncontrolled bleeding. These patients may have treatment to increase their platelet counts. This can include platelet transfusions and medications to help the body make platelets.
Treating Low White Blood Cell Counts
MDS and MDS treatments often cause low white blood cell counts. This can increase the risk of infection. Your physician will pay close attention to any infection or fever. If a bacterial infection is found, you will be treated with antibiotics. White blood cell transfusions are generally not used for patients with MDS, so physicians sometimes use medications called growth factors to help increase a patient's white blood cell count.
Iron Chelation Therapy
Because some MDS patients get many red blood cell transfusions, they may be at risk for “iron overload,” a disorder that can damage the heart and liver. Iron chelation therapy uses medicine to remove the extra iron from the body.
While you are in active treatment, your MDS care team will see you regularly for exams and tests to check:
We update your treatment plan based on the best scientific evidence as well as how your disease responds and what you prefer.
Along with treating your MDS, Fred Hutch provides a range of services to support you and your caregiver before, during and after treatment. This is part of how we take care of you — not just your disease.
From registered dietitians to chaplains, we have experts who specialize in caring for people with this condition. We understand this may be one of the most intense and challenging experiences you and your family ever go through. We are here to provide the care you need.
Learn about Supportive Care Services
When your disease is in remission and your active treatment ends, it is still important to get follow-up care on a regular basis. At follow-up visits, you will see the same Fred Hutch team who treated your MDS. They will check your overall health and look for signs that your MDS has come back (signs of recurrence).
Your team will also help with any long-term side effects (which go on after treatment ends) or late effects (which may start after treatment is over).