Acute myeloid leukemia demands immediate medical treatment because of its rapidly progressing nature. Know how is this cancer treated from the following.
Evey cells in the body has a nucleus, and this nucleus consists of what is known as the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). This very substance contains the instructions which guide the cell to grow, divide and die as it is supposed to. However, when this DNA picks up a mutation, it malfunctions in processing its instructions for the cells. And a direct consequence of such a malfunction is that, the cell keeps on growing and dividing in an abnormal way, at a faster rate than what the normal cells do.
And there can be a multiple of cells which can acquire mutations in them. In this case, it is the white blood cells, whose DNA gets damaged thus causing them to grow rapidly and overcrowding the healthy cells. This condition is known as leukemia, and the abnormal cells are known as leukemic white blood cells. Their rise in number causes a corresponding decrease in red blood cells and platelets. And because of this reduction in the healthy blood cells, the affected person experiences several symptoms.
Leukemia – Some Facts
Leukemia is primarily classified according to its progress rate, and the type of white blood cells it has affected. If the cancer progresses rapidly then it is known as acute leukemia, otherwise, chronic leukemia. If the same affects the white blood cells known as lymphocytes (an important part of the immune system; forms the lymphatic tissue), then the condition is known as lymphocytic leukemia.
And if the cancer affects the myeloid cells (responsible for the production of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets), then it is referred to as myeloid leukemia. Thus, there are four major types of this cancer, v.i.z., acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) (also known as acute myeloid leukemia), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia and What Causes It?
As discussed already, this form of the cancer affects myeloid cells. Due to its rapidly growing nature, the treatment for it, must be immediate, and is usually aggressive. Regarding the cause, as explained earlier, DNA mutation in the blood cells triggers this condition. However, medical experts are still perplexed with what exactly causes this mutation.
What are its Symptoms?
As I have cited above, because of the overgrowth of the abnormal cells, red blood cells and platelets diminish with time. And this causes the affected child to experience bone pain, persistent fatigued, difficulty in breathing, frequent infections, and frequent instances of nosebleeds. Fever and pale skin may also accompany.
How is Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treated
It is important to know that the treatment begins only a few days after the diagnosis has been made. Given the rapid progress of the cancer, delay would only make it worse. A team of different specialists is usually employed to work on a case of AML, because of its complex nature. The treatment plan mainly involves two stages; one is known as induction therapy, and the other, consolidation therapy.
The first stage, that is induction, deals with killing the cells that have become cancerous in the bone marrow, and in the blood. The treatment also aims towards restoring the blood to its normal order, and managing the symptoms. Typically, the process is done on an inpatient basis. This is required as the patient would have to undergo regular blood transfusion. Also, since the patient will be vulnerable to many infections, being in a hospital will help doctors to treat any instability in the patient’s condition.
So the main process involved in the induction therapy to treat acute myeloid leukemia is chemotherapy. It makes uses of powerful chemicals to eliminate the cancer cells from the system. To add to this, if the patient has been diagnosed by a subtype of AML, that is, promyelocytic leukemia, then other anti-cancer drugs may also come into the picture.
In most cases, induction therapy fails to achieve a complete wipe-out of the cancer cells from the system. And cancer is a disease that requires just one cancerous cell, to recur with full effect. So the main aim of consolidation therapy is to ensure the removal of the cancerous cells that might have survived the induction therapy.
Here, the patient receives shots of chemotherapy injections on a regular basis. Unlike induction, this is done on an outpatient basis. However, a hospital stay might be required if the symptoms suddenly grow worse. Besides the above methods, the acute myelogenous leukemia treatment might also involve radiotherapy, and stem cell transplant.
Speaking of the survival rate of patients with acute myeloid leukemia, younger people are known to do better than older adults. One reason behind this may be the fact that, chemotherapy drugs do better in younger people, than in adults. The good news is, AML is a curable condition. However, this largely depends on the nature of the cells that has become cancerous, and on the treatment procedures taken up by medical experts.