Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a condition in which abnormal white blood cells multiply rapidly and crowd out the production of healthy red blood cells. AML is a rare disease, responsible for 1.2% of cancer deaths, but the most common type of leukemia that affects adults. Approximately 9,500 patients die of this type of cancer annually.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Signs & Symptoms
In AML, the bone marrow is replaced with abnormal white blood cells, which cause a reduction in healthy red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells. This can often cause anemia due to a decrease in the blood’s iron supply. Other symptoms can include:
- Easy bruising/bleeding
- Bone and/or joint pain
- Rapid weight loss
- Frequent or persistent infections
- Enlargement of the spleen
- Swollen gums (rare)
Symptoms of this condition often resemble the flu, but if they persist for longer than a few weeks, seek medical treatment immediately. Smoking, previous exposure to radiation and previous chemotherapy treatment increases a patient’s odds of developing AML as an adult.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Diagnosis & Treatment
Most doctors prescribe a CBC (complete blood count), and abnormal results can often indicate the presence of AML. Other tests that may be ordered include:
- Peripheral blood smear: This procedure checks for blast cells, amount and types of white blood cells, amount of platelets, and changes in the red blood cells’ shape.
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: A small portion of the bone marrow is removed by inserting a long thin needle into the hipbone or breastbone. The sample is examined under a microscope to detect malignant cells.
- Cytogenetic analysis: A blood sample is drawn and examined under a microscope to detect any changes in the blood’s chromosomes.
- Immunophenotyping: This test identifies cells based onthe types of cells or markers on the cell’s surface. This procedure can help to identify the specific type of AML that the patient has by comparing the abnormal cells to healthy cells.
- Reverse transcription: A tissue sample is collected andthe cells are examined by using chemicals to detect certain changes in the genes’ structure or function.
AML is usually treated with chemotherapy or radiation. In severe cases, patients have undergone a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, which can help to stem the progression of the disease.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Prognosis
A patient’s prognosis is based on their age, the subtype of AML that they may have, whether they have received chemotherapy in the past to treat another type of cancer, whether the cancer has spread to the central nervous system, and whether it is a recurrence of cancer.