Leukemia strikes early blood-forming cells, usually the white blood cells, but sometimes it occurs in other types of blood cells. According to the American Cancer Society’s 2018 estimated statistics, there will be about 60,300 new cases of leukemia in the United States in 2018, and about 24,370 deaths will result from this disease. There are several different types of leukemia, such as Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, and Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Each type has its own risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
AML begins in the bone marrow, but usually moves quickly into the bones, and sometimes to other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system, and testicles.
The American Cancer Society estimates 19,520 new cases of AML for 2018, with nearly all of them occurring in adults (average age is 68). About 10,670 deaths are expected from this disease.
Causes of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
While it is unclear what causes most cases of AML, some known risk factors include the following:
- Gender (higher in males)
- Genetic syndromes
- Family history
- Older age
- Exposure to chemicals like Benzene
- Blood disorders like Polycythemia
- Chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin and cyclophosphamide.
- Radiation exposure
Symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
The general symptoms of AML include the following:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Fever and Night sweats
- Persistent infections
- Easy Bruising, Gum Bleeding or frequent nosebleeds
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Other symptoms caused specifically by high numbers of leukemia cells include slurred speech or Confusion
Diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
If signs and symptoms indicate the need, certain steps will be taken to diagnose AML:
- Medical history and physical exam
- Blood tests blood counts and blood smear
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
- Imaging tests including X-rays, CT scan and Bone scan
Staging of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
AML is not “staged” like other cancers. Instead, it is categorized based on factors such as its subtype (based on the lab tests), the patient’s age, and other lab results. There are two types of classification systems.The most recent system, created by the World Health Organization, is based on certain factors of the disease that the previous system overlooked. This new system uses the following categories:
- AML with certain genetic abnormalities
- AML with myelodysplasia-related changes
- AML related to previous chemotherapy or radiation
- AML not otherwise specified
- Myeloid sarcoma
- Myeloid proliferations related to Down Syndrome
- Undifferentiated and biphenotypicacute leukemia
Treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Because AML is not a single disease, but a group of related diseases, treatment options vary, as does the response to these treatments.
- Targeted therapy
- Stem cell transplant
- Radiation therapy
Prevention of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
As with many cancers, not smoking is the greatest known way to prevent AML. However, most of the known risk factors cannot be avoided, so there is really no known way to prevent the majority of the cases.