Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
Leukemias are cancers that begin in cells that would normally develop into blood cells. Leukemias most often affect white blood cells, but some forms of the disease may start in other blood cell types. There are several types of leukemias out there based on how fast they grow and in what cells they start in.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), also known as acute myelogenous leukemia and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia, is the second most common type of leukemia in children (behind acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL). “Acute” means that the disease spreads quickly (and is likely fatal if not caught early) and “myeloid” or “myelogenous” means it affects myeloids, a type of white blood cell.
What are the symptoms of AML?
It’s important to note that the following symptoms may be caused by something other than the leukemia.
General symptoms of AML include:
- Weight loss
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Bleeding that is difficult to stop
- Joint or bone pain
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
If certain symptoms suggest your child may have AML, your doctor may suggest testing for the disease, which would include medical history and physical examinations and some sort of sampling test (blood, bone marrow, etc.).
What are the survival rates for AML?
When discussing cancer survival statistics, a “five-year survival rate” is used as the chances of a cancer coming back after that period of time is highly unlikely. Five-year survival rates for ALL range from 65% to 75%.
About 90% of children with AML will have no cancer cells in their blood post-induction, although AML returns in about a fifth of these cases.
How is AML treated?
The main treatment option for AML is chemotherapy, alongside targeted therapy drugs.
The treatment of AML is divided into three phases:
The first of the phases, which is the shortest but most intense. This stage of treatment is meant to clear all leukemia cells and reduce the number of blast cells to normal.
The patient is given chemo in order to kill off the small amount of remaining leukemia cells post-induction. This stage is given in cycles, with the body being given periods of rest in between.
This phase is low chemo dosage for months or years post-consolidation. This is primarily only for acute promyelocytic leukemia patients (APL).