Chemotherapy | Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation


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If you have a high-Risk or intermediate-2 risk IPSS score, you have a higher risk of developing Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). To prevent this from happening, your doctor may prescribe intensive chemotherapy in order to kill bone marrow cells that have an abnormal size, shape, or look.

Chemotherapy for MDS patients involves the use of medicines that kill cells, which are called cytotoxic agents. These medicines are divided into low-dose and high-dose treatments.

Low-dose chemotherapy medicines include:

  • Ara-C (cytarabine) and Hydrea® (hydroxyurea)

High-dose chemotherapy medicines include:

  • Ara-C (cytarabine), daunorubicin, idarubicin, and mitoxantrone used together

If you receive chemotherapy, you might experience side effects. You may:

  •     Feel sick to your stomach or throw up
  •     Get sores in your mouth
  •     Have loose stools (diarrhea)
  •     Lose your hair

How Chemotherapy Works

Chemotherapy hurts healthy cells along with abnormal ones. So you may need to stay in the hospital for a few weeks after treatment. During this time, you will receive transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. You will also take medicine to fight infection.

Approximately 40 to 50 out of 100 patients have no MDS symptoms after receiving high-dose chemotherapy. But, for nearly 90 out of 100 patients, the disease returns within 5 years and for most, within 2 years. High-dose chemotherapy rarely provides a cure.