Acute Myeloid Leukemia Facts

What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

Acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, is a disorder involving myeloid stem cells. Normally, myeloid stem cells can self-renew and mature into red blood cells (to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues), white blood cells (to fight infections) and platelets (to stop bleeding).

In patients with AML, the myeloid stem cells behave abnormally and do not transform into mature blood cells, or they transform into irregular blood cells that do not function normally. As abnormal cells build up in the bone marrow and bloodstream, the patient may experience anemia, susceptibility to infections and bleeding that does not clot due to the lack of functional red blood cells, white blood cells and/or platelets.

What Risk Factors are Linked to AML?

Factors that can elevate risk of AML include:

  • A personal or family history of leukemia or blood disorders
  • Prior treatment with radiation or chemotherapy
  • Exposure to radiation or certain chemicals, including benzene and formaldehyde
  • Being male
  • Smoking

What are the Symptoms of AML?

Common symptoms associated with AML symptoms include:

  • Unexpected loss of weight or appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Excessive bleeding and bruises, or bleeding that does not stop
  • Petechiae (flat, round and red pinpoint spots under the skin)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fevers, chills and other flu-like symptoms
  • Night sweats

Although these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, you should check with a doctor – preferably a hematologist – to get a definitive diagnosis.

Sources: National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society