Screening is not often used for MDS, as it can be expensive and time-consuming to test a person for each myelodysplastic syndrome if they are not experiencing any symptoms. Diagnostic tests are typically only suggested for patients who report unusual changes in their health, although some patients are diagnosed with MDS during routine bloodwork.
Despite the absence of a standardized MDS screening test, people who have one or more risk factors for myelodysplastic syndrome can schedule yearly visits with their general physician, who can:
- Assess the patient’s medical history
- Ask about any unusual changes the patient may have noticed in his or her health
- Run a complete blood count (CBC) to measure a patient’s red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets
If the results of a patient’s complete blood count indicate unusually low levels of any of these cells, further testing can be done to determine if MDS is the underlying cause of the deficiency. There are many other reasons that can contribute to an abnormal CBC, such as low levels of folate or vitamin B12. However, more extensive labwork can distinguish between these causes and something more serious, such as a myelodysplastic syndrome.
Although not considered a true form of MDS screening, physicians can screen patients with previously diagnosed myelodysplastic syndrome for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which develops in a small number of patients with MDS. This can be done shortly after the patient’s initial diagnosis and is based on how the cells look under a microscope. Patients who are considered to have a heightened risk of developing AML can receive ongoing testing to monitor for any changes that might occur.
Moffitt Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, is continually exploring innovative options for MDS screening, diagnosis and treatment. For instance, we are investigating molecular genetic studies that can detect chromosome and gene abnormalities that might eventually lead to a myelodysplastic syndrome. We can also help patients with one or more risk factors determine the best steps for reducing their risk of developing a myelodysplastic syndrome, such as quitting smoking.
For more information about MDS screening, or to discuss symptoms with one of our expert oncologists, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. Referrals are never required.