Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer that develops in blood forming cells, apart from lymphocytes, that later become white blood cells. At times, it is seen in other blood-forming cells as well. AML initially develops in the bone marrow where the white blood cells are formed. When AML develops in the bone the bone marrow’s development process is affected and the bone marrow cells remain immature (also called as ‘blast cells’) and keep growing rapidly. Without adequate and prompt treatment AML can prove fatal for the patient. As it is an ‘acute’ form of cancer it can spread to the blood and other organs of the body, such as:
  • Lymph nodes
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Testicles
  • Spinal cord
  • Brain
Acute myeloid leukemia is also known as:
  • Acute Myelocytic Leukemia
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
  • Acute Granulocytic Leukemia
  • Acute Non-Lymphocytic Leukemia
The success of the AML treatment mainly depends on:
  • Your age
  • Medical history
  • Underlying medical conditions (if any)
  • Genes

Causes/Risk Factors for AML

Although the exact cause is unknown, there are certain risk factors that have been identified to be responsible for increasing the risk of development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in a person. These are the risk factors:
  • Smoking
  • Chemical exposure (benzene, etc)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Extended radiation therapy
  • Certain blood disorders (chronic myelogenous leukemia, etc)
  • Several congenital syndromes

Signs and Symptoms of AML

These are some of the commonly seen signs and symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia (AML):
  • Constant fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight-loss
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Anemia
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Recurring infections
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Frequent nosebleeds/bleeding gums or unusual bleeding
According to the location of the leukemia cells, there are certain symptoms that are observed, such as:
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen belly caused by enlarged spleen
  • Rashes/lumps on the skin
  • Painful/swollen/bleeding gums
  • Blurred vision/headache with balance problems
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) treatment

The AML treatment options are numerous and basically depend upon factors such as the sub-type of AML, its location, area of spread (metastasize), your age, overall health status, etc. These are the common AML treatment options:
  • Chemotherapy – This treatment method uses certain medicinal drugs to fight the cancerous cells. These drugs are mostly designed to affect the genetic structure of the cancerous cells so as to stop its growth further as well as to destroy the existing cancer cells.
  • Radiation Therapy – This treatment option uses high-intensity radiation beams to destroy the cancer cells using x-rays or other particles. Although this is not a commonly used treatment for AML, it is useful in treatment of leukemia of the brain, testicles or bones. It can also be used prior to a stem cell transplant, or to shrink a large tumor pressing on the windpipe, in rare cases.
  • Bone Marrow Transplant (Stem Cell Treatment) – A bone marrow transplant, also known as stem cell treatment, is another AML treatment method. It involves using chemotherapy or radiotherapy to shrink the cancerous cells and destroy them. The doctor will then transplant bone-forming stem cells (from a donor or patient’s own) to allow healthy white blood cells to start forming.
The doctor will be able to suggest the best-suited treatment option for your case.
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