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1/2/2021 Sophia Hogg

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia

What is Acute Myelogenous Leukemia?

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

The word "acute" in acute myelogenous leukemia signifies the disease's rapid progression. It is known as myelogenous leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells known as the myeloid cells, which generally develop into the various kinds of matured blood cells, for instance red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

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

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Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Symptoms

Symptoms of the early stages of acute myelogenous leukemia might mimic those of the flu or other common diseases.

Signs and symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia involve:

  • Fever

  • Bone pain

  • Lethargy and fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pale skin

  • Frequent infections

  • Easy bruising

  • Unusual bleeding, like frequent nosebleeds and bleeding from the gums

When should you see a doctor?

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

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Causes

Acute myeloid leukaemia occurs when a bone marrow cell develops, alters or mutates its genetic material or DNA. A cell's DNA consists of the instructions which tell a cell what to do. Generally, the DNA tells the cell to grow at a set rate and to die at a set time. In acute myelogenous leukemia, the mutations instruct the bone marrow cell to continue growing and dividing.

When this occurs, blood cell production gets out of hand. The bone marrow produces immature cells which develop into leukemic white blood cells known as myeloblasts. These abnormal cells are incapable of working properly, and they could accumulate and displace healthy cells.

It is not clear what causes the DNA mutations which lead to leukemia, but primary care physicians have identified factors which increase the risk.

Risk factors

Factors which might increase your risk of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) involve:

  • Increasing age - The risk of acute myelogenous leukemia increases as you get older. Acute myelogenous leukemia is more common in adults age 65 and older.
  • Your sex - Men are more likely to develop acute myelogenous leukemia as compared to women.
  • Previous cancer treatment - People who have had specific types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy might have a greater risk of developing AML.
  • Exposure to radiation - People exposed to very high levels of radiation, like survivors of a nuclear reactor accident, have a higher risk of developing AML.
  • Dangerous chemical exposure - Exposure to specific chemicals, like benzene, is linked to a greater risk of AML.
  • Smoking - AML is linked with cigarette smoke, that contains benzene and other known carcinogenic chemicals.
  • Other blood disorders - People who have had another blood disorder, like myelodysplasia, myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera or thrombocythemia, are at greater risk of developing AML.
  • Genetic disorders - Specific genetic disorders, like Down syndrome, are related with an increased risk of AML.

Many people with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) have no known risk factors, and many people who have risk factors never develop the cancer.

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Diagnosis

If you have signs or symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia, your primary care physician might suggest that you undergo diagnostic tests, including:

  • Blood tests – Most of the people with acute myelogenous leukemia have too many white blood cells, not enough red blood cells and not enough platelets. But sometimes the level of white blood cells could be too low. The presence of blast cells, immature cells generally found in bone marrow but not circulating in the blood is another indicator of acute myelogenous leukemia.
  • Bone marrow test - A blood test could indicate leukemia, but it generally takes a bone marrow test to confirm the diagnosis.
    During a bone marrow biopsy, a syringe is used to remove a specimen of your bone marrow. Generally, the specimen is taken from your hip bone. The specimen goes to a laboratory for testing.
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) - In certain situations, it might be required to remove some of the fluid around your spinal cord to check for leukemia cells. Your primary care physician could collect this fluid by inserting a small syringe into the spinal canal in your lower back.
  • Testing your cancer cells in the laboratory - In a laboratory, primary care physicians test your leukemia cells to better understand which gene mutations are present. This could help determine your prognosis and guide your treatment.

If your primary care physician suspects leukemia, you might be referred to a primary care physician who specializes in blood cancer hematologist or medical oncologist.

Determining your AML subtype

If your primary care physician determines that you have AML, you might require 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 look like when examined under a microscope. Special laboratory testing also might be used to identify the specific characteristics of your cells.

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

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment

Treatment of acute myelogenous leukemia depends upon several factors, including the subtype of the disease, your age, your overall health and your preferences.

In general, treatment falls into two stages:

  • Remission induction therapy - The purpose of the first stage of treatment is to kill the leukemia cells in your blood and bone marrow. Although, remission induction generally does not wipe out all of the leukemia cells, so you require further treatment to stop the disease from returning.

  • Consolidation therapy - Also called post-remission therapy or maintenance therapy, this stage of treatment is aimed at destroying the remaining leukemia cells. It is considered important to decrease the risk of relapse.


Therapies used in these stages include:

  • Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy is the major form of remission induction therapy, though it could also be used for consolidation therapy. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill off cancerous cells in your body.
    People with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) usually stay in the hospital during chemotherapy treatments because the drugs destroy many normal blood cells in the process of killing leukemia cells. If the first cycle of chemotherapy does not cause remission, it could be repeated.

  • Targeted therapy - Targeted drug treatments focus on certain abnormalities present within cancer cells. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments have the potential to kill cancer cells. Your leukemia cells will be tested to see if targeted therapy might be helpful for you. Targeted therapy could be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy for induction and consolidation therapy.

  • Bone marrow transplant - A bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, might be used for consolidation therapy. A bone marrow transplant helps re-establish healthy stem cells by replacing unhealthy bone marrow with leukemia-free stem cells which will regenerate healthy bone marrow.
    Before doing a bone marrow transplant, you receive very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy your leukemia-producing bone marrow. Then you receive infusions of stem cells from a compatible donor or allogeneic transplant.
    You could also receive your own stem cells or autologous transplant if you were previously in remission and had your healthy stem cells removed and stored for a future transplant.

  • Clinical trials - Some people with leukemia choose to participate in clinical trials to try experimental treatments or new combinations of known therapies.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia, the expert providers at Specialty Care Live will take care of your health and help you recover.

Call 469-805-4561 to book a telehealth appointment for an at home check up. You can request a callback from us too.