What is Acute Myelogenous Leukemia

 By: Tony Tate
AML, (acute myelogenous leukemia), is an aggressive cancer of the bone marrow and blood. It is the most common type of leukemia. AML is also known by the following names-acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. Blood cells are malformed and useless. The cells can accumulate in parts of the body.

Acute myelogenous leukemia statistics
- Rare in people under 40 years old
- More common in men than in women
- Average age is 65 years old
- 5-year survival rate
o under 65 years old-33%
o over 65 years old-4%
- 2007 it is predicted there will be 13,000 cases (majority will be adults)

The symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia include abnormal blood counts, a general run-down, unwell feeling that never gets better, reoccurring infections, swollen lymph nodes, and bone/ joint pain. Symptoms are acute (comes on suddenly, and accelerates quickly) instead of chronic (mild symptoms that gradually worsen over years).

When the malformed cells collect around parts of the body, it can cause skin, lung, central nervous system, kidney, and even testicle problems. Initially, acute myelogenous leukemia may mimic other conditions. Blood tests identify the possibility of AML. The final diagnosis is usually made after a bone marrow test and sometimes by a spinal tap, also known as a lumbar (lower spine) puncture (LP).

There are several types treatments available, one or more will be used to treat a dignosis of AML.

Chemotherapy-strong drugs taken orally or intravenously that kills the cancer cells. Occasionally it's injected directly into the spine. It is a systemic treatment because it travels throughout the whole body.

Radiation-high energy rays like X-rays kill the cancer cells

Bone marrow transplants-unhealthy cancer producing bone marrow is destroyed and replaced with matching bone marrow.

Immunotherapy-stimulates the immune system to destroy cancer cells or boosts natural defenses. It can be a made naturally or artificially.

Risk factors for AML
- Previous chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- Exposure to radiation and chemicals like benzene
- Genetic disorders like Downs Syndrome
- Smoking
- Blood disorders like myelodysplasia.

People with risk factors should watch more closely for symptoms of AML because early treatment increases survival rate.
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