What is acute myeloid leukemia?

Childhood Leukemia: What Is AML?

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer that causes the body to make a large number of young white blood cells (myeloblasts). But these myeloblasts, called leukemia cells, cannot fight infection very well.

When leukemia cells build up in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy blood cells. This can cause infections, anemia, and easy bleeding.

AML usually gets worse quickly. It sometimes is referred to as acute myelogenous leukemia.

What are the symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)?

Symptoms of AML include weakness and fatigue, fever, and night sweats. You may also bruise or bleed easily or have pain or a feeling of fullness below the ribs. Or you may have pinpoint spots under the skin from bleeding.

How is acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in children treated?

The main treatment for AML is medicine (chemotherapy). Treatment might also include immunotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and targeted therapy. A clinical trial may be a good choice. Treatment usually has two steps. The first uses intensive chemotherapy. The next step involves more treatment to remove all traces of leukemia cells.

How is acute myeloid leukemia (AML) diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about any current symptoms, your medical history, and your family history. You'll have a physical exam, where your doctor will check your lymph nodes, liver, and spleen.

You'll have tests, which may include:

  • Lab tests, including a complete blood count.
  • Imaging tests, such as a CT scan, an MRI, or an X-ray.
  • A lumbar puncture to find out if leukemia cells are in the fluid in your spine.
  • Tissue tests, such as a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.
  • Genetic tests that look for changes in your genes and chromosomes.
  • Heart tests to check how well your heart works, such as an echocardiogram.

If the exam and test results point to leukemia, the doctor may do more tests on the blood or bone marrow samples to learn more about the type or subtype of leukemia it is.

How can you care for your child who has acute myeloid leukemia (AML)?

Give medicines as prescribed, and help your child get plenty of rest. Offer foods with protein and extra calories, or try liquid meal replacements or milkshakes. To help avoid dehydration, give your child frequent sips of water or drinks like Pedialyte or Infalyte.

What is acute myeloid leukemia (AML)?

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is also called acute myelogenous leukemia. It's a type of leukemia that causes the body to make too many myeloblasts.

Myeloblasts are a type of young white blood cell. They usually become mature, infection-fighting cells. But if those young cells don't mature like they should, they can start to grow abnormally and out of control. Then they can crowd out normal blood-making cells and cause swollen glands or other lumps.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has abnormal bleeding.
  • You think your child has an infection.
  • Your child has new or worse pain.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child is much more tired than usual.
  • Your child has swollen glands in the armpits, groin, or neck.

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