Do You Know What Acute Myeloid Leukemia Is?
AML stands for acute myeloid leukemia. It is a form of cancer that features abnormal myeloblasts, platelets or red blood cells produced by bone marrow. Various subtypes of AML exist and you need to know about the condition because it can be quite debilitating.
Obviously, there are numerous things that can be said about this form of leukemia. Some are more important than others. The facts that you absolutely have to be aware of are the following.
What Does AML Affect?
In the normal human body, bone marrow manufactures blood stem cells that eventually become mature. Such a cell can turn into a lymphoid stem cell or a myeloid stem cell. The lymphoid stem turns into the white blood cell. The myeloid stem turns into either:
- White blood cells – Capable of fighting disease and infection.
- Red blood cells – They carry different substances to body tissues.
- Platelets – They form blood clots needed to stop bleeding.
When a person suffers from AML, a myeloid stem cell becomes an immature white blood cell known as myeloid blasts. These myeloblasts are not normal and cannot become a healthy white blood cell. In some cases, way too many of the stem cells turn into abnormal platelets or red blood cells.
All the abnormal cells are known as blasts or leukemia cells. The leukemia cells build up inside blood and bone marrow so healthy cells do not have enough space to thrive. As this happens, easy bleeding, anemia or infection can occur. Leukemia cells can reach other body parts, like gums, skin and even the central nervous system.
AML Symptoms And Signs
Early AML symptoms and signs are usually caused by common diseases, like the flu. This is why it is really important that you visit the doctor whenever you experience:
- Breath shortness
- Feeling tired
- Easy bleeding
- Easy bruising
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
AML Risk Factors
Although being exposed to risk factors does not mean you will get ill, you have to be aware of what could lead to being affected by this type of cancer.
Important risk factors to know with AML include:
- Smoking – This is especially the case when you are over sixty.
- Being male.
- Having been treated with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
- Having been treated for ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia).
- Exposure to radiation.
- Some blood disorders.
In order to diagnose AML, you are put through different procedures and tests. This can include:
- Physical Exam – A body exam checks general health signs, like signs of disease. Anything that seems unusual is analyzed. Also, past illnesses, treatments and health habits are considered.
- CBC (Complete Blood Count) – This procedure uses a blood sample to check for different things, like how many red blood cells are inside the body and how much hemoglobin is present in them.
AML is a really serious condition that needs to be treated seriously. Whenever there are signs that you might be suffering from this form of leukemia, respect everything the doctor has to say.
In most cases, the treatment chosen by doctors is chemotherapy. This is sometimes combined with targeted therapy drugs. After, AML treatment can involve stem cell treatment and other drugs that are needed to treat APL (acute promyelocytic leukemia). Other options can also be considered, with the following being the most common AML treatments now taken into account:
- Non-chemo drugs
- Targeted therapy drugs
- Radiation therapy
- Steam cell transplant
All treatment options have to be discussed with the doctor, together with all the possible associated side effects and goals. Doctors always consider various factors when choosing a treatment plan, including AML type, overall health, age and how you feel about the potential side effects. The big problem is that AML can quickly progress in the event it is not treated. This is why doctors have to start treatment as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. If you are not sure about something or you do not know something, ask your doctor. If possible, ask for a second opinion.