Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer found in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft inner part of bones. In acute leukemia, the bone marrow produces immature cells that keep on building up in the body. These cells are also known as blast cells. Doctors may refer to AML as acute myelocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, or acute non-lymphocytic leukemia.
Causes of AML
Radiation, chemotherapy, drugs and exposure to certain chemicals are some of the known factors that increase the risk of the disease. Other causes that lead to AML are:
- Chain smoking
- Old age
- Previous chemotherapies and radiation treatments
- Other blood disorders like myelodysplasia, polycythemia vera or thrombocythemia
- Genetic disorders like Down’s syndrome
Symptoms of AML
In the early stages, Acute myeloid leukemia symptoms may resemble those of common flu. The symptoms may differ based on the blood cell affected. Visit the doctor if any of the following symptoms is seen:
- Prolonged Fever
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Bone pain
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruising
- Unusual nose bleeding and gum bleeding
Diagnosis of AML
In the case of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, doctors may recommend the following tests to diagnose the stage of cancer:
Blood tests are done to check the red and white blood cells and platelet count. This test also helps in diagnosing the presence of blast cells in the body.
Bone marrow test is a biopsy done to confirm the diagnosis.
Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is done to remove fluid around the lower part of the spinal cord to check for cancerous cells.
If the tests are positive, the doctor may refer the patient to an oncologist, who specializes in cancer treatments or a hematologist, who is a specialist in blood or blood-forming tissues.
Treatments of AML
Acute Myeloid Leukemia treatment depends on the subtype of the disease, overall health, age and medical preferences. Generally, the treatment is done in two stages:
Remission induction therapy is the first phase of treatment, which aims to remove leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow. However, this therapy does not successfully remove all the cancerous cells. Further treatment is required to prevent it from returning.
Consolidation therapy is conducted after the remission therapy, which aims to eradicate the remaining leukemia cells from the body. This therapy helps in reducing the risk of relapse. Therapies used in both the phases include chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, anti-cancer drugs and participation in suitable clinical trials.