Haematology

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a fast growing kind of blood cancer, which also affects bone marrow, causing abnormal myeloblasts (white blood cells), platelets and red blood cells. It usually occurs from cells that are supposed to mature and largely found in adults and if not treated early, it quickly gets worse and become fatal in a few months.

When blood cells do not get mature, it builds up more immature cells which reduces the functionality of the immune system, hence becoming more prone to infection. AML affects healthy blood cells that include

  • Include Red Blood cells carrying oxygen and oxygen and platlets that assist the blood to clot

Symptoms of AML vary from age and health condition of the patient, which are

  • Anemia

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Bruising

AML is usually found in blood and bone marrow but can also spread inner part of large bones, body, skin, brain and gums. It can form a solid tumor known as chloroma and myeloid sarcoma if treatment gets delayed.

Treatment

Doctors inspect your signs and symptoms and use several tests to identify which type of leukemia patient is suffering from, which include, blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, genomic testing, lumbar puncture and imaging tests. After performing these diagnostic tests, the doctor will review the result and if found diagnosed with AML, necessary actions would be taken immediately to cease it from further developing.

There are certain methods physicians use to cure AML and intensive chemotherapy is one of the most widely used methods. In chemotherapy, drugs are used to destroy the cancer cells and stopping them from further growing. The drugs reach the bloodstream and then to immature cells and is very effective in treating blood disorders. The therapy includes placing an intravenous IV tube into the vein, injection into the cerebral spinal fluid, a capsule that needs to be swallowed or a simple injection under the skin.

Chemotherapy itself has three major phases, which has its own functionalities. These are

  • Induction therapy, where remission (No evidence of leukemia) is completed.

  • Post-remission therapy, where the remaining AML cells are destroyed which are detected after induction therapy.

  • Consolidation therapy, where high dose cytarabine and other intensive chemotherapy are given at monthly intervals.

Another widely utilized method is radiation therapy where high energy x-rays are performed to destroy cancer cells. It is performed by radiation oncologists and is generally used when leukemia has spread to the brain and other essential part of the body.

Bone marrow transplantation is also often used with a curative intent.

Complications

Chemotherapy destroys leukemic cells and sometime healthy tissues as well.

  • Mouth sores

  • Hair loss

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Bleeding and bruising

  • Low red blood cells count

Radiation therapy side effects include

  • Upset stomach

  • Loose bowel movement

  • Mild skin reaction

Post operative care

Follow up care of AML treatment can continue for months or even years. The patient will require regular check ups every month where the doctor will examine your health changes and any symptoms of returning leukemia. The side effects of the treatment may last for few months, years or for the lifetime.

It is vital to keep health insurance as health check ups and doctors visit will cost you a lot. Other than that, it is also very important to live a normal and healthy life. Make sure you have a nutritious diet and a decent workout as you will feel very weak for a few weeks. Try to avoid or restrict such activities that makes you breathe hard. See a doctor at once, if you feel any signs and symptoms of cancer recurrence.