What is MDS?

    MDS represents a group of disorders that affects red blood cell (RBC) production in approximately 5 per 100,000 people.15% of cases occur after chemotherapy or radiotherapy for a previous cancer,2 but the cause of most cases is unknown.1

    What are the symptoms of MDS?

    Symptoms of MDS vary, but most MDS patients will develop anaemia and fatigue (tiredness).1 Other common symptoms include bleeding/bruising easily, fever, recurring infections and petechiae (small purple, red, or brown spots on the skin).3

    Treatment of MDS patients and the risk of iron overload

    The treatment for patients with severe cases of MDS is focussed to prevent the development of leukaemia (blood cancer), however in less severe cases the aim is to treat blood conditions such as anaemia. More than 80% of people with MDS develop anaemia and often require repeated RBC transfusions to manage their symptoms.4 As blood contains iron, these patients are at high risk of developing iron overload.5

    Iron overload in MDS and how it can be treated

    Iron overload can lead to serious health implications such as heart, liver and hormone complications.6 In order to help control the build-up of excess iron in MDS patients, doctors can suggest the use of iron chelators.


    Abbreviations: MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome; RBC, red blood cell.


    1. Mohammad AA. Myelodysplastic syndrome from theoretical review to clinical application view. Oncol. Rev 2018;12(397):134–142.
    2. Adès L, et al. Myelodysplastic syndromes. Lancet 2014;383:2239–2252.
    3. Martinez SFM, et al. Myelodysplastic syndrome clinically presenting with the “Classic TTP Pentad”. Case Reports in Hematology 2017:4619406.
    4. Balducci L. Transfusion independence in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes. Cancer 2005;106:2087–2094.
    5. EXJADE® film-coated tablets package leaflet.
    6. Lambing A, et al. The dangers of iron overload: Bring in the Iron Police. J Am Acad Nurse Pract 2012;24(4):175–183.
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    ONC20-C044b June 2020.

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