After beating breast cancer
five years ago, Good Morning America
co-host Robin Roberts revealed earlier this month that she has myelodysplastic syndrome
, also known as preleukemia or MDS. This announcement, of course, was a shock to her fans and viewers . . . especially those who had rooted for her during her cancer battle.
So what exactly is MDS? What causes it? And what are the chances Roberts will once again cheat death?MDS Facts
Over 12,000 people each year are diagnosed with MDS. It is a bone marrow disease that occurs when blood cells stop growing and become congested in the marrow. By eventually outnumbering healthy blood cells, several different health problems like anemia
and severe infections can develop.
While doctors may not always know the cause of MDS in a patient, it is often triggered by prolonged exposure to certain chemicals. The most common cause of MDS is cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy
, as in the case of Robin Roberts. The associated symptoms are usually hard to miss; they include feeling tired, a severe shortness of breath, easy bruising, frequent infections, fevers, and pale skin.
There are several ways to treat MDS. Blood transfusion and erythropoietin therapy is used to counter the anemia, but the main approach to treating MDS is through a bone marrow transplant. Donors must be healthy and have very similar immune markers on their blood cells. In fact, the closer the immune markers between donor and recipient match, the better the treatment’s outcome will be and the risk of having the body reject the new marrow is significantly decreased. Once a suitable donor is found, the recipient undergoes chemotherapy to kill off and remove all of the cells in their bone marrow, and the new marrow is then transplanted.
Myelodysplastic syndrome is more common in men than in women, and over 80 percent of cases are in people over the age of 65. While it can certainly be fatal due to infection or uncontrolled bleeding, most patients recover and continue to lead relatively normal lives. If left untreated, however, it can develop into an aggressive, fast-growing leukemia known as acute myelogeneous leukemia
The story of Robin Roberts has all of the makings of a good ending. At only 51 years old, Roberts is well below the common age for MDS. On top of that, her sister was found to be an excellent match with identical immune markers, and will be donating her bone marrow for Roberts. The Good Morning America
co-host is currently taking drugs and chemotherapy to prepare her for the bone marrow transplant, which should occur in late summer or early fall of this year. Her doctors have given her a great prognosis, and believe that she can be completely cured and able to live a full, healthy life.
With the outpour of support from fans, friends, family, and celebrities like Mary J. Blige, Robin Roberts has all of the right ingredients to make a tremendous recovery and return to doing what she loves . . . and what we love her for.
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