Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer that affects the blood cells in bone marrow. AML is also called acute myeloid leukemia. AML mostly affects those over age 70 and is the most common form of leukemia in adults.
There are two types of myeloid leukemia: chronic and acute. Chronic myeloid leukemia's (CML) onset can take several years, while acute myeloid leukemia's onset can appear suddenly.
AML - Blood Cells and Bone Marrow
Bone marrow produces immature blood cells that mature into one of three types:
- White blood cells: fight off infections and disease.
- Red blood cells: carry oxygen and nutrients to body tissues.
- Platelets: coagulate blood.
AML patients have abnormal white blood cells that do not fully develop into mature white blood cells. These immature white blood cells are called myeloid blasts, or myeloblasts. When myeloid blasts, abnormal red blood cells and platelets overproduce there is very little room for the production of normal cells. These abnormal blood cells are labeled leukemia cells.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Causes
The causes of acute myelogenous leukemia are not entirely known, but researchers have definitively linked AML with benzene exposure. Benzene is a chemical used for various industrial and commercial purposes. People routinely come in contact with varied levels of the volatile solvent, usually in the workplace.
Employers using benzene or benzene-laden materials are responsible for their employees safety. Strict government guidelines are in place to ensure employers minimize exposure, notify employees of dangerous conditions and keep employees healthy. Any deviation from the law can result in legal action against the employer. Benzene lawsuits aim to compensate sufferers for pain, suffering and legal expenses caused by employer negligence. Contact a personal injury lawyer to learn more about your rights as a benzene exposure victim. In addition, if someone you know has died as a result of benzene-related illness, consult a considerate wrongful death attorney as he or she might be able to help you hold those responsible for you suffering financially liable.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Symptoms
AML develops abruptly and quickly, many times becoming dangerous shortly after symptoms show. Acute myelogenous leukemia has a number of symptoms.
A few of the most common AML symptoms include:
- Red blood cell deficiency (anemia)
- General fatigue
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Easy bruising
- Chronic infections
- Weight fluctuations
Many of the aforementioned AML symptoms can lead to an incorrect diagnosis of a less-serious ailment (i.e. common cold or flu). If this occurs, AML may not be diagnosed early on and lead to serious illness or death.
Diagnosing Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
A patient who develops symptoms and has a thorough examination will most often be diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Most AML patients experience chronic bleeding and fatigue. Many develop an infection that does not go away.
Blood test results can reveal myelogenous leukemia. A doctor will notice that an AML patient has a high count of malignant white blood cells and an extremely low count of red blood cells. After completing blood work, a bone marrow aspiration or myeloid tissue biopsy can identify AML as the cause of blood cell loss. The cancer's stage can also be detected so prognosis and treatment can begin.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia - Prognosis and Treatment
Acute myelogenous leukemia is a fatal disease, but it is treatable with early diagnosis. AML patients usually undergo induction chemotherapy and post-remission chemotherapy.
Induction chemotherapy refers to the initial drug treatment used for acute myelogenous leukemia. A chemotherapy drug called cytarabine (ara-C) is often used in conjunction with a drug called daunorubicin. After induction chemotherapy, approximately 50 to 75% of adult AML patients enjoy complete remission. A bone marrow examination can make this determination.
Post-remission chemotherapy is phase two of AML drug treatment, with the intention to eliminate any lingering or undetectable cancer cells not affected by induction chemotherapy. A bone marrow transplant is an aggressive form of post-remission treatment if an AML relapse is feared. Approximately 70 to 80% of AML patients relapse.
Other treatments are constantly being researched to increase acute myelogenous leukemia survival rate and, of course, to find a cure for AML.
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