Acute myelogenous leukemia or acute myeloid leukemia or acute non lymphocytic leukemia is a type of blood cancer affecting the myeloid cells of the bone marrow resulting in excessive production of cancerous white blood cells and suppression of production of other blood cells namely the platelets and red blood cells.
This type of leukemia is the most common variety of leukemia occurring in adults. Although acute myelogenous leukemia is considered to be rare, the disease is comparatively more common in older population. Common presenting symptoms of the disease include repeated attacks of infection, increased pallor, tiredness, increased bleeding tendency as evidenced by repeated episodes of nasal bleeding (epistaxis) etc.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a rapidly progressing disease and eventually if not treated timely the outcome is fatal. Although the exact underlying cause is not known different risk factors and genetic abnormalities linked to the causation of acute myeloid leukemia have been identified.
Treatment depends upon the different subtypes of the disease. Treatment options include chemotherapy, stem cell transplant and other drugs like arsenic trioxide.
Usually during early stage the symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia resemble those of common flu like generalized weakness, body ache, loss of appetite, etc. As the disease progresses gradually different other symptoms appear depending upon the type of blood cell affected; like deficiency of normal white blood cells leads to increased susceptibility to infections, fall in red blood cells leads to anemia characterized by increased pallor, fatigue, palpitation, even heart failure in severe cases and deficiency in platelet leads to increased bleeding tendency, repeated episodes of gum bleeding, nose bleeding, frequent bruising following minimal or no trauma, etc.
In advanced stage bone or joint pain may occur. Usually glands are not swollen in this disease and involvement of the skin is quite rare (in about 10% cases). Under rare circumstances a type of accompanying paraneoplastic syndrome, known as Sweet’s syndrome characterized by inflammation of the skin may occur.
The leukemic mass (chloroma) may appear rarely on other organs outside the bone marrow and in some affected people there may not be any symptom rather the diagnosis is made on the basis of routine blood tests.
Like other types of cancer in case of acute myeloid leukemia, there is excessive production of abnormal white blood cells known as myeloblasts. Accumulation of these abnormal blood cells in the bone marrow leads to suppression of production of other healthy blood cells like red blood cells and platelets. The main reason behind this abnormal blood cell production is unrestricted cell division as the DNA of the bone marrow cells is damaged. Damage in the DNA occurs due to mutation, the sudden unwanted and irreversible change in the genetic material (DNA) of a cell.
Now the exact underlying cause is not known however numbers of risk factors are identified.
Common risk factors include
1. Progressive age: the condition is more common in people above 65 years of age
2. Gender: men are at more risk
3. Past exposure to radiotherapy and chemotherapy for other cancer treatment
4. Exposure to high level of radiation, dangerous chemical
5. Chronic smoking
6. Suffering from other type of blood disorder like polycythemia vera, myelodysplasia etc
7. Genetic disease like Down’s syndrome
Treatment options depend upon the subtype of the disease; treatment is usually done in two phases, namely remission induction therapy and consolidation therapy.Different treatment options include chemotherapy, other drugs like arsenic tri oxide, all trans retinoic acid, stem cell transplant, etc.