Disease: Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)

Appointments & care

At Mayo Clinic, we take the time to listen, to find answers and to provide you the best care.

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Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.

The word "acute" in acute myelogenous leukemia denotes the disease's rapid progression. It's called myelogenous (my-uh-LOHJ-uh-nus) leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called the myeloid cells, which normally develop into the various types of mature blood cells, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Acute myelogenous leukemia is also known as acute myeloid leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

General signs and symptoms of the early stages of acute myelogenous leukemia may mimic those of the flu or other common diseases. Signs and symptoms may vary based on the type of blood cell affected. Signs and symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia include:

  • Fever
  • 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

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with a doctor if you develop any signs or symptoms that seem unusual or that worry you.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Acute myelogenous leukemia is caused by damage to the DNA of developing cells in your bone marrow. When this happens, blood cell production goes awry. 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. Radiation, exposure to certain chemicals and some chemotherapy drugs are known risk factors for acute myelogenous leukemia.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Appointments & care

At Mayo Clinic, we take the time to listen, to find answers and to provide you the best care.

If you have signs or symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia, your doctor may recommend you undergo diagnostic tests, including:

  • Blood tests. Most people with acute myelogenous leukemia have too many white blood cells, not enough red blood cells and not enough platelets. The presence of blast cells — immature cells normally found in bone marrow but not circulating in the blood — is another indicator of acute myelogenous leukemia.
  • Bone marrow test. A blood test can suggest leukemia, but it usually takes a bone marrow test to confirm the diagnosis. During a bone marrow biopsy, a needle is used to remove a sample of your bone marrow. Usually, the sample is taken from your hipbone (posterior iliac crest). The sample is sent to a laboratory for testing.
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). In some cases, it may be necessary to remove some of the fluid around your spinal cord to check for leukemia cells. Your doctor can collect this fluid by inserting a small needle into the spinal canal in your lower back.

If your doctor suspects leukemia, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in cancer (oncologist) or a doctor who specializes in blood and blood-forming tissues (hematologist).

Determining your AML subtype

If your doctor determines you have AML, you may need further tests to determine the extent of the cancer and classify it into a more specific AML subtype. Your AML subtype is based on how your cells appear when examined under a microscope. Special laboratory testing may also be used to identify the specific characteristics of your cells.

Your AML subtype helps determine which treatments may be best for you. Doctors are studying how different types of cancer treatment affect people with different AML subtypes.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

No alternative treatments have been found helpful in treating acute myelogenous leukemia. But some complementary and alternative treatments may relieve the signs and symptoms you experience due to cancer or cancer treatment.

Alternative treatments that may help relieve signs and symptoms include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation exercises

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Acute myelogenous leukemia is an aggressive form of cancer that typically demands quick decision making. That leaves people with a new diagnosis faced with important decisions about a disease they may not yet understand. Here are some tips for coping:

  • Learn enough to make decisions about your care. The term "leukemia" can be confusing because it refers to a group of cancers that aren't all that similar except for the fact that they affect the bone marrow and blood. You can waste a lot of time researching information that doesn't apply to your kind of leukemia. To avoid that, ask your doctor to write down as much information about your specific disease as possible. Then narrow your search for information accordingly.

    Write down questions for your doctor before each appointment, and look for information in your local library and on the Internet. Good sources include the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

  • Lean on family and friends. It can be tough to talk about your diagnosis, and you'll likely get a range of reactions when you share the news. But talking about your diagnosis can be helpful. So can the outpouring of practical help that often results.
  • Take care of yourself. It's easy to get caught up in the tests, treatments and procedures of therapy. But it's important to take care of yourself, not just the cancer. Try to make time for yoga, gardening, cooking or other favorite diversions.

Learn enough to make decisions about your care. The term "leukemia" can be confusing because it refers to a group of cancers that aren't all that similar except for the fact that they affect the bone marrow and blood. You can waste a lot of time researching information that doesn't apply to your kind of leukemia. To avoid that, ask your doctor to write down as much information about your specific disease as possible. Then narrow your search for information accordingly.

Write down questions for your doctor before each appointment, and look for information in your local library and on the Internet. Good sources include the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Factors that may increase your risk of acute myelogenous leukemia include:

  • Increasing age. The risk of acute myelogenous leukemia increases with age. Acute myelogenous leukemia is most common in adults age 65 and older.
  • Your sex. Men are more likely to develop acute myelogenous leukemia than are women.
  • Previous cancer treatment. People who've had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy may have a greater risk of developing AML.
  • Exposure to radiation. People exposed to very high levels of radiation, such as survivors of a nuclear reactor accident, have an increased risk of developing AML.
  • Dangerous chemical exposure. Exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene, is linked to greater risk of AML.
  • Smoking. AML is linked to cigarette smoke, which contains benzene and other known cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Other blood disorders. People who've had another blood disorder, such as myelodysplasia, polycythemia vera or thrombocythemia, are at greater risk of developing AML.
  • Genetic disorders. Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are associated with an increased risk of AML.

Many people with AML have no known risk factors, and many people who have risk factors never develop the cancer.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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