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Survival Statistics for Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Survival statistics are a way for doctors and patients to get a general idea of the outlook (prognosis) for people with a certain type of cancer. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some people will want to know the survival statistics for their cancer, and some people won’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.

Median survival is one way to look at outcomes. It is the time after diagnosis at which half the patients in a certain group are still alive, and half have died. This is a middle value – half the patients live longer than this, and half do not live this long.

Survival statistics don't tell the whole story

Survival stats are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. There are some limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are based on patients diagnosed with a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) some time ago. Improvements in treatment since these numbers were gathered may result in a better outlook for people now being diagnosed with MDS.
  • These numbers are based on prognostic scores that take into account certain factors, such as the type of MDS, the results of certain blood tests, and whether the abnormal cells have certain chromosome changes. But other factors might also affect a person’s outlook, such as the patient’s age and health, and how well the disease responds to treatment.

Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below apply to you.

Survival statistics for MDS

The following survival statistics are based on the revised International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS-R) risk groups. It’s important to note that this system is based largely on people who were diagnosed many years ago and who did not get treatments such as chemotherapy for their MDS.

IPSS-R risk group

Median survival

Very low

8.8 years


5.3 years


3 years


1.6 years

Very high

0.8 years

The WHO Prognostic Scoring System (WPSS) risk groups can also be used to predict outcome – both median survival and the chance that the MDS will transform into acute myeloid leukemia (AML) within 5 years. These statistics were published in 2007 based on patients diagnosed between 1982 and 2004.

Risk Group

Median Survival

    Risk of AML (within 5 years)

    Very low

    11.8 years



    5.5 years



    4 years



    2.2 years


    Very high

    9 months


    Remember, these survival statistics are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any individual person. Many other factors can also affect a person’s outlook. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk to your doctor to better understand your specific situation.

    The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

    Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

    Della Porta MG, Tuechler H, Malcovati L, et al. Validation of WHO classification-based Prognostic Scoring System (WPSS) for myelodysplastic syndromes and comparison with the revised International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS-R). A study of the International Working Group for Prognosis in Myelodysplasia (IWG-PM). Leukemia. 2015;29:1502-1513.

    Estey EH, Schrier SL. Prognosis of the myelodysplastic syndromes in adults. UpToDate. 2017. Accessed at on October 11, 2017.

    Greenberg PL, Tuechler H, Schanz J, et al. Revised international prognostic scoring system for myelodysplastic syndromes. Blood. 2012;120(12):2454-2465.

    Malcovati L, Germing U, Kuendgen A, et al. Time-dependent prognostic scoring system for predicting survival and leukemic evolution in myelodysplastic syndromes. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25:3503-3510.

    Last Revised: January 22, 2018

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