Your doctor is your partner while you get treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML). You'll have regular visits to come up with a therapy plan, make tweaks to it, and check how well it's working.
During these appointments, your doctor will examine you, ask about your treatment side effects, and do tests that check to see if your AML is under control.
Tests to Monitor Your Treatment
The goal of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and other AML treatments is to get rid of as many cancer cells as possible. You also want to bring your blood counts -- a measure of how many blood cells you have -- back to normal.
At your visits, your doctor will check how many leukemia cells are in your blood and bone marrow -- the spongy space inside your bones that makes blood cells. A drop in these numbers is a sign your treatment is working.
Your doctor may ask you to take these tests to help plan and monitor your treatment:
Blood tests. Your doctor uses a needle to take a sample of blood from a vein in your arm. Lab technicians test the blood to see how many healthy and abnormal blood cells it has.
Bone marrow tests. Your doctor uses a needle to take out a little bit of fluid or a small piece of tissue from your bone marrow. Just like with blood tests, the material goes to a lab, where technicians check it for leukemia cells.
Gene tests. Lab technicians test your blood or bone marrow sample for certain genes and chromosome changes in the leukemia cells.
How to Prepare for Your Visit
Doctor visits can be short. You'll get more out of the time you have if you're prepared.
Before your appointment, make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions if he wants you to change your diet before a test.
Also take these steps before your visit:
- Write down your symptoms or treatment side effects, and note when they started and what you did to treat them.
- List the medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
You might want to bring along a family member or friend on your visit. That person can take notes while you talk to the doctor. If you go on your own, feel free to take notes yourself.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
It helps to learn as much as you can about your cancer and how to treat it. Some questions to ask your doctor:
- Why are you suggesting these tests or treatments?
- How long will my treatment last?
- How will I know my treatment is working?
- What can I do to prevent and manage side effects?
- What will you do if this treatment doesn't work?
- Do I need to see any other doctors?
- How can I find out about support groups?
- Should I consider joining a clinical trial?
- When is my next appointment?
When to Call Your Doctor Between Visits
AML treatments can sometimes cause infections and other complications. It's also possible for a treatment to stop working.
Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms from your cancer or treatments:
- Blood in your urine
- Fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat
- Fever of 100.5 degrees F or higher
- Joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- New or worse pain
- Shaking chills
- Severe headache with a stiff neck
- Swollen glands in your armpits, neck, or groin
- Trouble breathing
- Weakness or extreme tiredness
Ask your doctor what other signs to look out for, and when to call. Find out the after-hours phone number where you can reach someone at night and on weekends.