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Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Leukemia is cancer caused by white blood cells that develop abnormally in bone marrow. In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myeloblasts, an immature type of white blood cell, multiply uncontrollably. They are unable to develop into mature myelocytes or function properly.

Acute myeloid leukemia is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults, especially those over age 50, and is rare in children and teens. Although AML can be difficult to cure, new treatments have increased the chances of long-term remission to about 65 percent. 

Acute myeloid leukemia: what you should know

Acute myeloid leukemia risk factors

  • Repeated exposure to benzene, a chemical found in cigarette smoke, gasoline and other petroleum products
  • Genetic disorders including Down syndrome and Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
  • Exposure to radiation from previous treatment for other cancers
  • Personal medical history of other blood cancers or disorders

Acute myeloid leukemia symptoms

  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Cuts that are slow to heal
  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath during normal activity
  • Frequent minor infections
  • Aches in bones or joints
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

How can I get help for acute myeloid leukemia?

If your physician suspects that you may have AML, you will need further tests to confirm your diagnosis. At Rush, typical tests that help identify AML include the following:

  • Blood tests to check for abnormal blood cell and platelet counts
  • Review of previous bone marrow studies to look for problems with chromosomes
  • Needle aspiration or biopsy (if necessary) for new samples of bone marrow
  • Tests to assess organ function in the kidneys, liver and heart
  • Molecular test for certain markers in leukemia cells that can be targeted with specific drugs

Care for acute myeloid leukemia at Rush

Early treatment for acute myeloid leukemia is important because the disease progresses quickly. Physicians in the Leukemia Program at Rush may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Chemotherapy to damage or kill abnormal myeloblasts
  • Stem cell transplantation from a healthy donor to regrow healthy red and white blood cells and platelets
  • Antibiotics to treat infections resulting from AML or treatment side effects
  • Newly developed medications and other therapies through clinical trials, for eligible patients
  • Follow-up care after remission to monitor your condition and check for leukemia relapse

Why choose Rush for acute myeloid leukemia care?

  • At Rush, patients receive expert care from physicians who specialize in leukemia and stem cell and bone marrow transplantation. These programs have earned accreditations and recognition from several health care groups.
  • If eligible, patients can participate in clinical trials conducted by research physicians at Rush, enabling them to receive the newest drugs and other treatments.
  • The Rush Center for Advanced Reproductive Care offers several fertility preservation options for patients of childbearing age, including cryopreservation of sperm and eggs.

Departments and programs that treat this condition