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Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

 

What is it?

Acute myeloid leukaemia is a form of blood cancer. Cancer is when cell growth gets out of control; too many cells are made in an unorganised manner which cause the symptoms and problems of acute myeloid leukaemia.

 

Who gets it?

The problem causing acute myeloid leukaemia is in the bone marrow The tissue in the hollow areas of bones. This produces the blood cells. Acute myeloid leukaemia can develop by itself or from other blood disorders, which can transform into it.

 

What are the symptoms?

Patients with AML are usually quite poorly when diagnosed as their bone marrow The tissue in the hollow areas of bones. This produces the blood cells is not working properly. Patients typically have infections, fevers, sweats, feel tired, worn out and can be breathless. Some patients experience bleeding episodes such as nose bleeds or bleeding into the skin forming bruises, this is because the blood clots less easily the normal.
The spleenAn organ in the left upper abdomen which removes old red blood cells from the blood and liverAn organ in the right upper abdomen which has many functions including the removal of toxic substances from the blood and production many vital nutrients. can be enlarged and patients may feel this as lumps under their rib cage.

 

How is it diagnosed?

There are clues to the diagnosis on a standard blood test especially when it is looked at under a microscope. To gain more information about which type of acute myeloid leukaemia is present a bone marrow biopsy is needed, part of the sample is sent to London to gain detailed information.

 

How is it treated?

Usually several treatments are started when diagnosis is confirmed. Antibiotics are usually needed as the body is vulnerable to infections. A fluid drip it normally needed as patients are dehydrated and blood transfusionsA blood transfusion is similar to receiving a fluid drip but blood is transfused into a vein and not fluid. A cannula is inserted into a vein, this is a small plastic tube which is removed afterwards, to enable the transfusion to be performed. Transfusions take around 3 hours. are sometimes needed as the patients are anaemic.
Chemotherapy is the main treatment against the cancer and the modern treatments have improved survival. Survival is linked to which subtype of acute myeloid leukaemia a patient has. Your Doctor will talk with you about this as every case is different.
Stem cell transplant is another treatment option.

 

Further information

Acute myeloid leukaemia at Macmillian cancer support

Acute myeloid leukaemia at NHS choices

 

 

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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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