Robin Roberts' MDS diagnosis brings disorder to the national spotlight

What is myelodysplastic syndrome?

Before Good Morning America's Robin Roberts announced her diagnosis with myelodysplastic syndrome, few probably had ever heard of the condition, much less know what it is.

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a disorder where the bone marrow produces too few functioning red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, according to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

The group says that MDS usually occurs in older people and is not usually inherited.  Cases are more likely to be found in men than women.  Roberts' case of MDS is said to have been a side effect of her treatments for breast cancer.

There are several treatments available.  A bone marrow transplant is the only one known to cure MDS, according to the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.  Blood transfusions can be used to increase the number of red blood cells.  There are also some medications available that can affect a person's genes that promote and/or kill cell growth.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins are continuing to perform clinical trials to find medications that can restore the function of genes, as well as procedures that will help cure a person of MDS.

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