As most viewers are very aware of, a cancer survivor of breast cancer has come to us on our television sets to announce that she has cancer once more. We are of course talking about Robin Roberts who is one of Good Morning America’s hosts. Diagnosed very recently she spoke about the kind of cancer she has, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, also known as MDS. Its name is derived from Myeloid which means that it a form of a blood cell, and then the word dysplasia which means that there is some sort of developmental problem with those cells.
It is a rare blood disorder, once called Preleukemia, Unfortunately, unless fought aggressively; it is thought that it will develop into progressive bone marrow failure. Cancer treatments are available for her, as is the possibility of a bone marrow treatment, as her very own sister is a perfect match for this amazing treatment. The possibility of a long-term remission for her is possible, as a curative therapy but of course that is assuming that her bone marrow transplant is fruitful. Transplantation is thought to be highly successful if the Myelodysplastic Syndrome was caught very early, which thankfully it was. It is also more successful if the patient is rather young, which in her case is definitely a factor, as she is only 51 and described as being exceptionally physically fit.
Apparently luck is on Robin Roberts’ side, since her doctors have said that having a bone marrow transplant will probably be her only way to truly be able to fight this cancer. Doctors went on to say that she had damaged bone marrow, thus they will take her sister’s healthy bone marrow cells and introduce them in Robin Roberts body. Now granted this bone marrow transplant does have its rather high risks even when the recipient is rather young and quite healthy except for having Myelodysplastic Syndrome. This is why they have opted to begin treatment with chemotherapy first.
It is also a terrible shame that this type of cancer is one of the most poorly misunderstood. Even some of the world’s best hematopathologists, who are clinical scientists and Drs. who specialize in blood disorders, are unsure as to the exact cause of Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Some believe that it is simply attributable to genetics, your genes from your parents, while some believe that a certain type of environmental exposure such as to radiation or benzene is the basis known to sometimes cause Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Thus, as you can imagine in Robin Roberts’ case, it is thought that her disease may have stemmed from her previous exposure to her chemotherapy or radiation exposure used for her breast cancer treatments that eventually cured her of breast cancer. This is an important fact and it has led to further in depth study about all cancer treatments.
Medically what happens with Myelodysplastic Syndrome is that the normal blood cells in our bodies, for some reason do not mature. Medically these immature cells are called “blast cells.” This in turn keeps them in the patient’s bone marrow where they die. This causes a number of medical problems such as severe infection, rapid bleeding, and mostly anemia since the blast cells actually can crowd out healthy cells.
Undoubtedly as part of her cancer treatments she will receive blood product support; referred to as supportive care, and then she will also have hematopoeitic growth factors introduced. These are, put simply in layman’s language, a large grouping of proteins that medically stimulate the production of her blood cells. Through the usage of those, they also hope to reduce her requirements for frequent red blood cell transfusions. Everything that they do is to raise her blood count, and this of course lowers the degree of her symptoms. Doctors have said that it is the primary objective in this type of cancer treatments.
Now as in all cancer treatments, she will have to undergo chemotherapy once more. The reason for this is that chemo does reduce those red blood cell transfusion requirements. In addition it does severely hinder the progression of Myelodysplastic Syndrome. You may be interested to know that there are some other well-known people who have had Myelodysplastic Syndrome such as Carl Sagan, Nina Foch, Susan Sontag, and Fran Allison among others. For more information on the treatment of cancer, please direct your cursor to http://www.CancerTreatmentToday.org.