Erythroleukemia is also known as “Di Guglielmo syndrome” and is a rare form of acute myeloid leukemia that occurs when the bone marrow produces excessive amounts of abnormal white blood cells.
The condition may result from exposure to many different chemicals. It accounts for approximately 30 percent of all secondary leukemias in the United States and 3-5 percent of acute myelogenous leukemias.
Although the disease can occur in patients of any age, those over 50 years of age are most at risk for developing this illness.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms can vary from patient to patient, but the most common symptoms are:
- Weight loss
- Easy bruising
- Persistent bone or joint pain
Some patients can also become anemic and display additional symptoms such as abnormal bleeding from the gums, retinal hemorrhages, and infections of the respiratory tracts, urinary tracts, sinuses, peri-rectal areas, and skin.
Medical professionals think that prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation or previous chemotherapy treatments can increase a patient’s risk of contracting erythroleukemia.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Erythroleukemia is usually diagnosed by one of the following tests:
- Blood tests: A CBC (complete blood count) can indicate the presence of certain substances in the blood. Abnormally high levels of chemical substances in the blood can indicate the presence of cancerous cells.
- Bone marrow aspiration: A small sample of bone marrow is drawn and examined under a microscope; abnormally high levels of erythroblastic and myeloblastic cells can indicate the presence of erythroleukemia.
- Biopsy: The physician will collect a sample of bone marrow tissue and examine it closely under a microscope to determine the presence of abnormal cells.
- Analysis of genetic abnormalities: Erythroblastoma is thought to be genetic in nature; a physician may do a genetic workup on a patient to determine if their condition meets this criteria.
- Diagnostic imaging: CT or CAT scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are commonly used to detect the presence of abnormal cells.
This type of cancer is difficult to treat, as it does not typically respond well to chemotherapy. Physicians will sometimes insert a catheter or port directly into the patient’s vein to administer a constant stream of chemotherapy.
The prognosis for patients with erythroleukemia is typically poor—on average, the patient is given a 6-month survival period.