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Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukemia continued...

A shortage of red blood cells may cause symptoms of anemia including:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling cold
  • Light-headedness
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath

A shortage of normal white blood cells may result in:

  • Recurring infections
  • Fevers

A shortage of blood platelets may cause symptoms such as

  • Lots of bruising for no clear reason
  • Frequent or severe nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or other unusual bleeding such as from minor cuts

Depending upon where leukemia cells are present, other symptoms may include:

  • Bone or joint pain
  • A full or swollen belly from leukemia cells in the liver or spleen
  • Lumps or rashes in the skin
  • Swollen, painful, bleeding gums
  • Headache, trouble with balance, vomiting, seizures, or blurred vision
  • Enlarged lymph nodes such as in the neck or groin, under arms, or above the collarbone (rare)


Treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Because AML is a group of related diseases, treatment depends upon each subtype as well as on other factors. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis.

You may have more than one type of treatment, including:

  • Chemotherapy, the use of anticancer drugs -- often two or three -- such as cytarabine, anthracycline drugs, 6-thioguanine, hydroxyurea, or prednisone.
  • Radiation therapy, the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. This is not used often for AML but may be used to treat leukemia in the brain, bone, or testicles; before a stem cell transplant; or, in rare cases, to shrink a tumor that's pressing on the windpipe.
  • A bone marrow transplant, which involves use of high doses of chemotherapy and possibly radiation, followed by a transplant of bone-forming stem cells. Stem cells usually come from a donor. Or, less likely, they come from your own bone marrow or peripheral blood. If you cannot tolerate high doses of chemotherapy and radiation, lower doses may be used with a "mini-transplant."

What are the survival rates for acute myeloid leukemia? The five-year survival rate overall is about 24%. Surviving at least five years indicates a good chance of long-term survival. Survival rates may be better now as this statistic reflects outcomes from 1999 to 2006.

AML treatment consists of two parts: induction therapy and consolidation therapy, which are both done in the hospital.

The goal of induction therapy is to achieve remission by:

  • Killing as many AML cells as possible
  • Returning blood counts to normal over time
  • Ridding the body of signs of disease for a long time

Even if remission is achieved, you will likely still need more treatment. Consolidation therapy attacks leukemia cells that common blood or marrow tests can't find. This therapy may include chemotherapy, which may be different drugs than those used earlier, and possibly a bone marrow transplant.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 19, 2013

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