Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Cancer Care

Fremont and San Leandro Medical Centers

Overview

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of diseases that cause low blood counts. Normally, the spongy bone marrow found in the center of large bones makes young blood cells (stem cells) that mature into healthy blood cells. In MDS, the bone marrow does not work properly, which causes low numbers of 1 or more types of blood cells.

Treatment options for MDS include supportive care, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplantation.

Supportive Care

MDS causes low blood cell counts that can result in severe fatigue, frequent infections, and other problems. The goal of supportive care is to lessen these symptoms and improve your quality of life. For low-risk MDS, supportive care may be all that is needed until the disease progresses. For others who need chemotherapy, supportive care is still an important part of your treatment. Supportive treatments include:

  • Transfusions. Red blood cell or platelet transfusions can help raise counts that become too low. Low red blood cell counts can cause extreme fatigue and shortness of breath, while low platelet counts cause you to bleed and bruise easily. If multiple red blood cell transfusions are needed, too much iron builds up in the blood, which can cause organ damage. To prevent this, a treatment called iron chelation that removes extra iron from the body are sometimes recommened.
  • Growth factors. The body naturally makes proteins called hematopoietic growth factors that stimulate the bone marrow to make blood cells. Man-made identical versions of these growth factors to improve blood cell production can be used to boost the number of red blood cells. These drugs may also help lessen the need for transfusions.
  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics may be used to treat infections caused by low white blood cell counts.

Chemotherapy

For MDS, chemotherapy is sometimes used to kill abnormal cells or prevent them from dividing. This allows normal blood cells to grow again. Chemotherapy can be delivered through a vein, into a muscle, or in pill form. Known as systemic chemotherapy, these drugs enter the bloodstream and attack abnormal cancer cells throughout the body.

Chemotherapy to treat MDS may be given at a low dose to reduce the risk of side effects. This is an option for older patients who may be unable to withstand the toxic effects of higher doses of chemotherapy. Rarely, for those patients who will undergo a stem cell transplant, chemotherapy is given at high doses before the transplant. There are different types of chemotherapy drugs to treat MDS. They include:

  • Conventional chemotherapy drugs, which attack cells that divide quickly.
  • Hypomethylating drugs, which restore the function of genes that control cell growth, improving bone marrow function and blood cell counts.
  • Immune treatments, which include immune-modulating drugs and immunosuppressive drugs. In some cases, the immune system slows down the production of normal blood cells. Immunosuppressive drugs may be used to block this immune response and increase blood cell production.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Chemotherapy can cause a variety of side effects, the severity of which depends on the type and dose of the drug as well as the length of time it is given. Some people experience one or more of the following common side effects of conventional chemotherapy:

  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood cells counts

Side effects of hypomethylating drugs are generally milder than traditional chemotherapy drugs. 

The side effects of immune-modulating drugs include:

  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands and feet caused by nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Constipation
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Low blood cell counts
  • Birth defects if taken during pregnancy

For immunosuppressive drugs, side effects may include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Breathing problems

We have effective methods for preventing and managing chemotherapy side effects, which typically go away once treatment ends.

Stem Cell Transplantation

In a very small number of cases, a stem cell transplant can treat and sometimes cure MDS. High doses of chemotherapy, sometimes with whole-body radiation therapy, wipe out the cells – both cancer cells and normal cells – in the bone marrow. After chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant can replace blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow, creating a healthy environment for normal blood cell production.

A stem cell transplant may be considered if the MDS is high risk, you are below a certain age, and are otherwise healthy enough to undergo the intensive treatment. Blood stem cells are usually obtained from the circulating blood.

Allogeneic transplant

Blood stem cells come from a related or unrelated donor whose tissue type matches your tissue type. The closer the match, the better the chance your body will accept the donor stem cells and start producing normal blood cells.

Stem Cell Transplantation Side Effects

Treating the bone marrow with high-dose chemotherapy or radiation to prepare you for a stem cell transplant can temporarily leave the body without its natural defenses. It can take several weeks, possibly months, for the bone marrow to recover. During that time, there is an increased risk of infection and bleeding.

A complication of allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplantation is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). This happens when the donor stem cells recognize your body as foreign and start attacking tissues of the skin, digestive tract, and liver. Symptoms of GVHD include:

  • Skin rash, blisters, or open sores
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Liver and lung problems

Clinical Trials

We are always looking for new and better ways to treat MDS. Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments or procedures that may prove better than standard treatments. We will talk with you about whether a clinical trial may be right for you.

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