As the nation watches broadcaster Robin Roberts battle back against the blood disease myelodysplastic syndrome, the concern often leads to questions: What, exactly, is a bone marrow transplant? For that matter, what is MDS? And, most importantly, how can I help fight a disease I can't even pronounce?
We've compiled a list of questions and resources related to bone marrow transplants and MDS. You can use them to educate yourself, feed your curiosity, or help someone in your life -- or even a stranger -- who is ailing.
What is a bone marrow transplant?
A bone marrow transplant is a procedure that replaces unhealthy marrow (the soft tissue inside a bone) with healthy marrow. Generally, healthy marrow is removed via a large needle from a donor, or in some cases, from the patient, and then transplanted into the patient's body following other treatments.
For more information: Medline Plus Bone Marrow Transplant Page
What is MDS?
MDS, or Myelodysplastic syndrome, is a blood disorder. It used to be called "preleukemia," and while that term isn't in wide use anymore, it is a reasonable way to understand it. Basically, MDS patients cannot properly produce blood cells. Frequently, MDS patients need transplants or transfusions to survive.
For more information: MDS information at Marrow.org
Who is eligible to be a bone marrow donor?
Overwhelmingly, doctors choose donors who are between 18 and 44 years old. Though millions are on the National Bone Marrow Registry, chances of finding a match are one in thousands.
For more information: Facts and figures from the National Marrow Donor Program
What are the risks for a donor?
Risks vary, but according to the National Marrow Donor Program, being involved in a transplant procedure doesn't necessarily mean surgery.
For more information: Myths and facts about donation
What's a transplant like for the patient receiving the marrow?
The National Bone Marrow Transplant Link has an extensive brochure that outlines the procedure from beginning to end, including emotional and physical preparations, cost, and other things to expect during treatment. You can read it below.
For more information: NBMT Resource Guide for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant
I'm not really caught up on Robin Roberts. What's her story?
"Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts was recently diagnosed with MDS and is undergoing bone marrow transplant procedures. Roberts previously conquered breast cancer in 2007. You can follow her journey on Twitter and through this blog dedicated to her recovery.
If you or a loved one have a bone marrow transplant story to share, tell us about it on Facebook.com/HLN.