Acute myeloid leukaemia is a fast-growing type of blood cancer affecting myeloid cells.
The bone marrow, where the blood cells are made, produces many immature cells called ‘blasts. These spill out into the circulating blood. The bone marrow is unable to produce other types of cells, so the patient may become anaemic, or may bruise and bleed easily, and be very susceptible to infections
The illness can come on quite rapidly and symptoms can include
- Easy bruising
- Frequent infections
- Breathlessness, especially on exertion
- Sometimes chest pain
Diagnosis is made via a combination of blood tests and bone marrow biopsy.
Treatment can be complex and may involve a stay in hospital for intensive chemotherapy. Patients who are considered to be higher risk may be offered a stem cell transplant, which involves a stay in a London hospital for more intensive treatment.
Treatment with chemotherapy may not be appropriate for everybody. In some cases, where the patient is in a frail condition, the side-effects of chemotherapy would be too hard to tolerate and the treatment would be impossible to give safely. In older age groups, the survival rate is very low, and the patient is supported with blood transfusions.
In some cases, patients can be offered some palliative treatment to slow the disease down, but this is not appropriate for everybody, and if the disease is advanced, it will not work.
Your consultant can discuss with you the most appropriate options available to you.
You can find more information on AML here: