Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), also called acute myelogenous leukemia, is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. It is a rare but serious disease that most people are unaware of. That’s why, AML World Awareness Day is held annually on the 21st of April to raise awareness about AML. On April 21, 2023, Know AML is running an education and awareness campaign called My Story, Our Journey. The campaign aims to raise awareness of AML and educate people.
What is Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)?
AML arises when a single progenitor cell in the bone marrow undergoes a series of genetic mutations, causing it to replicate excessively and uncontrollably. As a result, the bone marrow produces an excessive amount of immature cells, called myeloblasts, which are unable to perform their designated functions properly. Consequently, these abnormal cells accumulate and overwhelm the healthy cells, leading to a variety of deleterious effects. The disease progresses rapidly, affecting a group of white blood cells called myeloid cells, which normally develop into mature red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Signs and symptoms of AML
The symptoms of AML can vary among individuals, and some may not experience any symptoms at all. Common symptoms include
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent infections.
Other less common symptoms may include
- Unusual bleeding
- Bruising easily
- Unexplained weight loss.
Diagnosis and Prognosis
The exact cause of AML is unknown, but certain risk factors may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing the disease. These risk factors include age (AML is generally a disease of older people and is uncommon before the age of 45. The average age of people when they are first diagnosed with AML is about 68. But AML can occur in children as well.), exposure to certain chemicals and radiation, genetics (family history of AML), and certain pre-existing medical conditions such as myelodysplastic syndrome.
Diagnosing AML involves tests which look at cells in the blood and bone marrow. Tests include
- Blood test
- Bone Marrow Biopsies
- Chromosomal genetic studies.
There are a number of factors that can influence a patient’s prognosis, including
- Genetic and chromosomal abnormalities
- Age and overall health
- History of blood disorders or previous cancers
- Response to chemotherapy.
Treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
The treatment for AML depends on the individual’s age, health status, and the stage of the disease. Based on case to case basis, treatment options include
- Intensive Chemotherapy
- Targeted therapy
- Bone marrow transplant
Supportive care, such as antibiotics for infections and blood transfusions, may also be necessary to manage symptoms and complications.
Raising awareness for AML is crucial in supporting individuals and families affected by the disease.After the absence of leukemia cells in both the blood and bone marrow, a patient’s condition is identified as being in ‘remission’. Nonetheless, leukemia cells may still be present in meager amounts, prompting the need for close monitoring and regular follow-ups. Sometimes AML can return to patients who have been in remission, several months or even years later. Regular follow-ups are important so that relapse is detected early and treatment options can be discussed.
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