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Shortages of blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets) cause most of the symptoms in people with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Hematopoietic growth factors can often help bring the blood counts closer to normal.
Hematopoietic growth factors are hormone-like substances that help bone marrow make new blood cells. These substances occur naturally in the body, but scientists have found ways to make large amounts of them in the lab. Patients can get these factors in larger doses than would be made by their own body.
Other medicines that raise blood cell counts in different ways might also be helpful for some people.
Patients usually receive growth factors and similar drugs through subcutaneous (under the skin) injections. Your health care team can give the injections, or you or your family members might be able to learn to give them at home.
Studies are under way to find the best way to predict which patients will be helped by growth factors and similar drugs, as well as the best way to combine growth factors with each other and with other treatments, such as chemotherapy.
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.
Estey EH, Schrier SL. Management of complications of the myelodysplastic syndromes. UpToDate. 2017. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/ management-of-the-complications-of-the-myelodysplastic-syndromes on October 12, 2017.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Myelodysplastic Syndromes. V.1.2018. Accessed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/mds.pdf on October 12, 2017.
Last Revised: April 15, 2020
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