Is Myelodysplastic Syndrome A Cancer And Is It Leukaemia?


Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) is a condition that often prompts questions about its relationship to cancer and leukaemia. MDS involves abnormalities in the bone marrow that can lead to decreased blood cell production and potentially evolve into more serious conditions. 

Some individuals who are confused about this condition wonder if MDS is an autoimmune disease. MDS is not considered to be an autoimmune disease. However, studies have indicated that MDS patients have a high association with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and immune thrombocytopenia.

But is Myelodysplastic Syndrome considered cancer? Myelodysplastic Syndromes are considered to be a form of blood cancer. However, based on the risk group of the MDS, not all patients with MDS will need immediate treatment.

We’ll delve deeper into its connection to leukaemia and the nuances that distinguish these blood cancers. By clarifying these concepts, we strive to provide you with a clearer understanding of MDS and its implications, helping you navigate your health journey with knowledge and confidence.


Stages of MDS

The reason why MDS is usually confused with leukaemia is because advanced stages of MDS can transform into Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

MDS is staged using the IPSS-R (International Prognostic Scoring System – Revised), which is a scoring system that helps to classify MDS patients at diagnosis into 1 of 5 groups. Patients are categorised from very low risk to very high risk groups based on:

  • their risk of transformation to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) 
  • risk of mortality.

If MDS is progressing, patients often develop symptoms directly related to the fall in blood counts. This often includes an increased frequency of infections, easy bruising or bleeding, and increased lethargy, with shortness of breath and sometimes weight loss.


MDS and Leukaemia

So, is myelodysplastic syndrome a form of leukaemia?’. MDS is considered to be a form of blood cancer but it consists of a group of different disorders of varying prognoses. Low-risk MDS patients may not require any treatment or may only require blood transfusions. However, high-risk MDS patients often have a course of the disease which is aggressive, and while the condition is not leukaemia, many of these patients have a high risk of progression to frank leukaemia.

Patients may wonder how they will know when MDS turns into AML? The transformation of MDS to AML is characterised by an increase in abnormal myeloblasts (leukaemia cells) in the blood and bone marrow (to a level of >20% myeloblasts in the bone marrow). Patients’ blood counts often fall at this stage, and patients are more likely to have frank symptoms related to acute myeloid leukaemia, such as increased infections and the need for blood transfusions.


Understand Your MDS Treatment Options With CFCH

Myelodysplastic Syndrome treatment singapore, CFCH

While MDS shares certain characteristics with cancer and can sometimes progress into leukaemia, it’s important to remember that MDS exists on a spectrum of disorders with varying degrees of severity. If you or a loved one are grappling with questions or concerns about MDS, seeking expert guidance can make a significant difference. CFCH is here to provide you with comprehensive support, personalised treatment plans, and answers to all your queries. Get in touch with us and we’ll guide you on your treatment journey.


The information on the Centre For Clinical Haematology website is intended for educational use.  It should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health professional.

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