Acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and it is an acute leukemia, which means it progresses quickly and should be treated immediately.

Today, highly successful therapies developed here at the OSUCCC – James mean that AML patients who receive targeted, individualized treatment can successfully maintain a normal quality of life.

Every person’s disease is different, with individually unique genes and molecules driving that disorder. At the OSUCCC – James, our leukemia subspecialists are world-renowned experts and central Ohio’s referral center for treating patients with acute leukemia. These experts focus solely on blood and bone marrow disorders and who reach across medical disciplines (hematologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, molecular and biological pathologists, genetic scientists and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific leukemia.

And by receiving access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are always available for their treatment and care.

What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

Adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most prevalent kind of acute leukemia in adults in the United States (about 18,000 new cases are diagnosed each year).

AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that usually develops when bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells (called myeloblasts), red blood cells or platelets.

Normally, bone marrow turns immature blood cells, called stem cells, into mature blood cells over time. A stem cell may become either a lymphoid stem cell (which eventually becomes a white blood cell) or a myeloid stem cell.

A myeloid stem cell becomes one of three types of mature blood cells:

  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen and other substances to all tissues in the body
  • White blood cells, which fight infection and disease
  • Platelets, which form blood clots to stop bleeding

AML usually develops when the myeloid stem cells become abnormal white blood cells (myeloblasts), but it can also occur when too many stem cells become abnormal red blood cells or platelets, called leukemia cells (or blasts).

Leukemia cells can build up in the bone marrow and blood, leaving less room for healthy cells.  When this happens, patients may have frequent infections or anemia or bleed easily.

Leukemia cells can also spread outside the blood to other parts of the body, including the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin and gums.

AML usually develops in middle-aged to older adults, and it occurs slightly more often in men than in women.

Other names for AML are:

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia
  • Acute myeloblastic leukemia
  • Acute granulocytic leukemia
  • Acute nonlymphocytic leukemia

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Diagram 

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Subtypes

There is no routine cancer, and there is no routine acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In fact, there are different subtypes of AML, and their classification is based on how developed the cancer cells are at the time the disease is diagnosed as well as how different the abnormal cells are from the normal ones.

Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is one subtype of AML that occurs when parts of two genes stick together. APL is usually diagnosed in middle-aged adults, and symptoms may include bleeding and forming blood clots.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Symptoms

Many acute myeloid leukemia (AML) symptoms are caused by abnormal white blood cells, called myeloblasts, which crowd out normal blood cells.

AML symptoms include:

  • Flu-like fatigue and fever
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Signs of tiny blood spots under the skin
  • Unusual weakness or dizziness
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Having symptoms does not necessarily mean you have AML. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms are severe or have continued for longer than a few weeks.

If you’ve been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a leukemia specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210