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Myeloproliferative vs. myelodysplastic

Myeloproliferative disorders (MPD): Diseases where bone marrow generates too many of a specific type of blood cell.

Myelodysplastic disorders (MDS) : Groups of cancers where the blood cells in the marrow do not mature to become healthy blood cells. In certain situations, these disorders can progress into leukemia. 

Understanding your risk

The most important risk factor for these disorders is prior treatment with chemotherapy, as certain drugs can make patients more susceptible, especially to myelodysplastic disorders.

Like other cancers, your risk depends on many variables including:

  • Prior radiation therapy
  • Smoking
  • Exposures to high doses of radiation at work or home
  • Genetic syndromes or mutations

Optum, offers comprehensive cancer risk assessments and hereditary cancer genetics evaluation programs to help you identify your risk.

Diagnosing MPD and MDS disorders

Because these disorders are found in the blood cells, they are most often detected through normal blood examinations. Based on initial tests, your doctor will use additional exams such as:

  • Blood cell counts
  • Bone marrow tests


The most common symptoms of these disorders are due to the abnormal blood counts. Further symptoms of these disorders may include:

  • Tiredness and shortness of breath
  • Lack of color (paleness) in skin
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Frequent nose bleeds or bleeding from the gums
  • Excessive blood clotting like strokes, heart attacks and deep vein thrombosis


For all of these cancers, the treatments are fairly similar. However, the exact treatment will be determined based on the severity and stage of the cancer. The most common treatments include:

  • Targeted Therapy: drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells or by directing your immune system to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: chemicals administered in pill or IV form to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells

Medical care and help

To find a blood cell disease specialist near you, visit our providers page.

Click here to learn more about Optum’s minimally invasive robotic assisted surgery options.

Contact us if you have any questions.