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Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is usually part of cancer treatment administered under the guidance of an oncologist. It is used along with other treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery to control malignant cells. Radiation controls cell growth and plays a vital role in destroying cells or keep them from multiplying. The oncologist will decide on the kind of radiation and dosage of radiation. Some amount of healthy cells are likely to be targeted in the radiation therapy. There are two forms of radiation therapy.


External beam radiation: High powered x-rays are directed into or near the tumor from outside the body.

Internal beam radiation: Here the radiation is done from inside or near the tumor.

The side-effects of radiation therapy are hair loss, nausea, vomiting, skin problems, increased susceptibility to infection and low blood counts. Radiation therapy cannot be used on a pregnant woman.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS refers to a group of blood disorders caused by defective blood cell production in the bone marrow. Bone marrow produces immature blood cells called blasts, which over a period of time develop into mature blood cells and divide themselves into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In Myelodysplastic syndrome, these blasts fail to mature and either die in the marrow itself or soon after they reach the blood stream. When there are not enough healthy blood cells, the body becomes weak and is susceptible to infections. MDS is not a cancer, however, in 20 to 30% of patients, the condition may progress itself into cancer and thus this condition was earlier called preleukemia.

Causes of Myelodysplastic syndrome

Based on causes, Myelodysplastic syndrome can be classified into primary MDS and secondary MDS. Myelodysplastic syndrome presenting itself without any known cause is called primary MDS. Myelodysplastic syndrome may also occur due to some known reasons such as history of cancer treatment involving radiation and chemotherapy, exposure to certain industrial chemicals and smoking. When the cause of the MDS condition is known, it is called secondary Myelodysplastic syndrome. Identifying the type of MDS is vital to the treatment as primary MDS has better prognosis when compared to secondary MDS.


Symptoms

Myelodysplastic syndrome does not cause any symptoms in the initial stages of the disease. However, the following warning signs may show up as the disease starts to progress.


  • Fatigue due to anemia
  • Frequent infections due to damaged immune system
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness
  • Easy bruising or bleeding can occur due to low platelet count.
  • Small red spots just under the skin.

Diagnosis and treatment

MDS is diagnosed with the help of blood tests and bone marrow tests. A complete blood test is done to understand the different blood counts. However, blood tests alone cannot detect MDS. Bone marrow tests are conducted to confirm the presence of Myelodysplastic syndrome. This procedure involves taking bone marrow samples from the pelvic bone of the patient by inserting a needle under local anesthesia. Once MDS is determined, the following methods are followed to treat the condition.


  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Blood transfusion to treat anemia and low platelet count.
  • Using medications called growth factors to allow the bones marrow to make more blood cells.
  • Antibiotics to treat infections
  • Stem cell transplant, an option that promises a cure to MDS, yet not widely adopted, as not many candidates qualify for this method. This method involves destroying the existing cells in the bone marrow via chemotherapy and radiation and infusing the stem cells from the donor.

Hematocrit values

Hematocrit values are analyzed to identify underlying medical conditions that are related to blood. Red blood corpuscle percentage in the blood composition plays a significant role in the normal physiological activity carried out by the body. Variations in these values indicates disease or malfunction in the body. Hematocrit value is estimated along with hemoglobin values to correlate the association of the red blood cells with the respective disease type. The hematocrit or hct is expressed as a percentage. Hence the complete blood counts play an important role in the effective diagnosis.


The normal ranges of hct values are 38% to 46% for women and 42% to 54% in men. It can vary in children from infancy to 10 years. Hematocrit blood test is recommended by physicians when the patient is clinically symptomatic of conditions related to anemia. After the patient history examination, the hematocrit is recommended to identify the type of anemia. Anemic patients have classical symptoms such as pale appearance, blurred or disturbed vision, and shortness of breath, lethargy and dizziness. Hematocrit values determine the cause of low RBC percentage and reduced hemoglobin values in association with underlying disorder. In some cases low RBC levels may indicate hemolytic anemia. Other conditions such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia are also diagnosed by analyzing the hematocrit values. Hematocrit values also determine the presence of inflammatory diseases and conditions such as cancers, polyps and ulcers. Other conditions which lead to low RBC and hemoglobin levels include nutritional deficiency, congenital heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, trauma to the kidneys and genetic disorders. Higher Hematocrit percentage is often noticed in chronic smokers and those living in higher altitudes. Another cause for high hct is dehydration

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Bibliography / Reference

Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: November 19, 2019