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Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer that originates in the bone marrow. This write-up provides more information regarding its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Ratnashri Dutta
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
In America alone, around 13,000 people are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) every year. It is a cancer of the white blood cells, and the chances of getting it increase with age. However, that does not mean children, or middle aged or young people cannot get affected by it.
Causes
AML is also known as 'acute myelocytic leukemia or acute granulocytic leukemia. It spreads quickly in the blood and the bone marrow. In case of a healthy individual, cells that develop into the white blood cells (WBC) which protect our body from any kind of internal disorders. If a person has AML, then these blasts do not develop into WBCs. The bone marrow of the body also produces an abnormal amount of red blood cells and even platelets. The growth of these abnormal cells, quickly outgrow the red blood cells, white blood cells, and the platelets in our body. This cancer can sometimes spread to the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system, or even the testicles (in case of males). Usually, it is diagnosed not before the age of 65. Moreover, this ailment is more common in men than women.
Symptoms
The common symptoms of AML include:
  • Lack of energy
  • Mild temperature due to low WBC count
  • Aching of bones, knees, hip, or shoulders
  • Bruises appearing without any reason
  • Cuts and wounds don't heal quickly (Due to low number of platelets in the body)
  • Anemia
  • Shortness of breath during any physical activity
  • Skin turning pale and small red spots developing under the skin
  • Swelling and bleeding of gums
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Nose bleeding
  • Irregular menstrual cycle in women
Treatment
This type of cancer spreads at a very fast rate, hence, when the first symptoms start appearing, medical assistance must be sought immediately. The various treatment options are:
  • Chemotherapy kills the cancerous cells that are causing leukemia. However, this treatment might also destroy the healthy cells of the body, thus making the person prone to other ailments.
  • Various antibiotics that can treat infections bound to occur
  • Bone marrow transplant might be carried out in order to get rid of the infected cells
  • Blood transfusion might be required, as the blood carries lesser oxygen, leading to anemia
  • Platelet transfusion might be required to make up for their deficit
  • Medicines that can be used as all-trans retinoic acid or ATRA might be prescribed. These transform abnormal cells into normal WBC.
Life Expectancy
Prognosis is fair, if after diagnosis, an AML patient hasn't had a relapse for 5 years. Also, patients below 60 years of age, have more chances of survival than those above 60. Receiving quality treatment greatly increases the chances of survival.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.