Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
What is acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)?
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.
In AML, the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell), red blood cells, or platelets. These abnormal cells crowd out the healthy blood cells, making it hard for blood to do its work.
What are the symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)?
The symptoms of AML include the following:
- Bone pain
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruising
- Unusual bleeding, such as frequent nosebleeds and bleeding from the gums
What causes acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)?
AML is caused by damage to the DNA of developing cells in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces immature cells that develop into leukemic white blood cells called myeloblasts. These abnormal cells are unable to function properly, and they can build up and crowd out healthy cells.
In most cases, it’s not clear what causes the DNA mutations that lead to leukemia. However – radiation, exposure to certain chemicals, and some chemotherapy drugs are known risks.
How is acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) diagnosed?
Diagnostic tests include:
- Blood tests
- Bone marrow test
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
What are the treatments for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)?
AML treatment depends on several factors, including the subtype of the disease, age, overall health, and preferences.
In general, treatment falls into two phases:
- Remission induction therapy
The purpose of the first phase of treatment is to kill the leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow. However, remission induction usually doesn’t wipe out all of the leukemia cells, so further treatment is required to prevent the disease from returning.
- Consolidation therapy
Also called post-remission therapy, maintenance therapy or intensification, this phase of treatment is aimed at destroying the remaining leukemia cells. It’s considered crucial to decreasing the risk of relapse.
Therapies for these phases include:
- Other drug therapies, like arsenic trioxide (Trisenox) and all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), which are anti-cancer drugs that can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy for remission induction of a certain subtype of AML called promyelocytic leukemia. These drugs cause leukemia cells with a specific gene mutation to mature and die, or to stop dividing
- Stem cell transplant
Where can I find out more about acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)?