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What Is The Outlook for Myelodysplastic Syndrome?

Myelodysplastic syndrome is a kind of cancer that affects the bone marrow. Bone marrow is present inside the bones and it is the factory of blood cells production. There are stem cells present in the bone marrow that develop into blood cells like red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

In myelodysplastic syndrome, there is improper and inadequate production of blood cells. Due to this some abnormal blood cells are also produced. According to Wikipedia, the typical survival time for myelodysplastic syndrome 2.5 years.(1)

What Is The Outlook for Myelodysplastic Syndrome?

What Is The Outlook for Myelodysplastic Syndrome?

Every patient has different genetics and different body types. The doctor uses a few outlook or prognostic factors to measure the approximate time period for how long the patient can live. Outlook means the likely prognosis of the disease based on certain factors.

To get the outlook for myelodysplastic syndrome, there are certain systems that entail the factors based on which the doctor can decide the likely outcome of the disease. These myelodysplastic syndrome outlook systems are IPSS (International Prognostic Scoring System), IPSS-R (Revised International Prognostic Scoring System) and WPSS (WHO classification based Prognostic Scoring System). The most widely used system is the IPSS.

IPSS (International Prognostic Scoring System) For Myelodysplastic Syndrome Outlook

IPSS is the most widely used system. There are three factors used in this system to predict the likely outcome of the myelodysplastic syndrome.

These factors are:

  • The amount of blast cells seen in the bone marrow
  • Type of chromosomal changes seen in the cells of bone marrow called as cytogenetics.
  • Cytopenias means evidence of low blood cells like low red blood cells, low white blood cells or low platelets.
  • Scores are given on the basis above-mentioned factors.

Scoring For Amount Of Blast Cells Seen In The Bone Marrow:

  • Less than 5 cells = 0
  • 5 to 10 cells = 0.5
  • 11 to 20 cells = 1.5
  • 21 to 30 cells = 2.0

Scoring For Cytogenetic Changes:

  • None = 0
  • 3 or more abnormalities, presence of abnormal chromosome number 7 = 1.0
  • Any other abnormalities = 0.5

Scoring For The Cytopenias:

  • None or only 1 = 0
  • 2 or 3 cytopenias = 0.5
  • After this analysis is done the total risk score is calculated:
  • When the total IPSS score is 0, it is low risk.
  • When the total IPSS score is 0.5 to 1.0, it is intermediate-1 risk.
  • When the total IPSS score is 1.5 to 2.0, it is intermediate-2 risk.
  • When the total IPSS score is 2.5 or higher, it is high risk.

The myelodysplastic syndrome outlook is predicted on the basis of this risk score. The higher the score the higher is the risk and lower is the life expectancy.(2)

How To Know If I Have Myelodysplastic Syndrome?

Usually myelodysplastic syndrome does not lead to occurrence of any symptoms in the early stages. When the disease progresses the symptoms and signs start to appear gradually. As the disease progresses the intensity of symptoms and signs become severe. The symptoms are also based on the type of blood cells afflicted.

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Pain in the bones
  • Difficulty in breathing (breathlessness)
  • Increased frequency of infections (occurs due to low levels of white blood cells in blood known as leukopenia)
  • Easy bleeding (due to low levels of platelets in blood known as thrombocytopenia)
  • Easy bruising (due to low levels of platelets in blood)
  • Presence of tiny red dots (known as petechiae) on the body that occur due to easy bleeding (due to low platelets in blood)
  • Paleness of body (due to low level of red blood cells in blood known as anemia)
  • Enlarged spleen size (splenomegaly)
  • Sometimes enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)

On blood investigations:

  • Low level of platelets (thrombocytopenia)
  • Low level of white blood cells (leukopenia)
  • Low neutrophils (neutropenia)
  • Low red blood cells (anemia)(3)


There is no specific way using which the exact number of days or months or years that the patient with myelodysplastic syndrome will be able to live, can be predicted. Every person has a different genetic composition and different body type. How long the patient can live is only predicted with the help of a scoring system named IPSS (International Prognostic Scoring System). The exact number cannot be given but an approximation of how long will the patient live can be made with the help of this system.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 24, 2021

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