Robin Roberts Reveals New Challenge with Post-Cancer Treatment Complication

Robin Roberts, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, leukemia, cancer
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Five years ago, Robin Roberts of Good Morning America battled and beat breast cancer. Today, however, she announces that the treatment for her cancer had left her with a complication known as myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood and bone marrow disorder once known as preleukemia. She vows with prayers and support, she will also beat MDS.

The National Cancer Institute notes that past treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy can increase the risk of developing myelodysplastic syndromes. Ms. Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2007 and subsequently underwent eight chemotherapy treatments. In 2008, she had 6 ½ weeks of radiation treatment as well.

In normal bone marrow, blood stem cells are made that develop into mature blood cells over time. A blood stem cell may become a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell. Myeloid cells then develop into one of three types of mature cells – red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. In myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), the stem cells do not mature into healthy blood cells. These immature cells, called blasts, do not function normally and either die in the bone marrow or soon after they enter the blood. When there are fewer cells, infection, anemia, or easy bleeding may occur.

Other risk factors for MDS include being male or white, being older than 60 years, being exposed to certain chemicals such as tobacco smoke and pesticides, or being exposed to heavy metals including mercury and lead.

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Ms. Roberts will begin pre-treatment with chemotherapy to prepare for a bone marrow transplant later this year. Although bone marrow donors are scarce, particularly for African-American women, Robin’s sister is an excellent match, improving her chances for a cure. Her doctors also note that her young age (51) and being fit will also help her beat the disease.

Robin will continue to work on Good Morning America throughout her treatment as much as she can. In a statement she says that, “Along with my faith, family and friends, all of you at ABC News give me the motivation and energy to face this challenge.”

To the public, she says, “When I faced breast cancer, your prayers and good wishes sustained me, gave me such hope and played a major role in my recovery. In facing this new challenge, I ask humbly for more of your prayers and love – as I will keep you in my mine and update you regularly on my condition.”

For more information about how you can be a bone marrow donor, please read: "How to Be a Bone Marrow Donor" by eMaxhealth's Deborah Mitchell.

Resources:
Good Morning America (ABC News)
National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

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