Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia

What is leukemia?
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells, usually the white blood cells.

What are the types of leukemia?
There are four main types of leukemia, which can be further divided into subtypes. When classifying the type of leukemia, the first steps are to determine if the cancer is:

1. lymphocytic or myelogenous leukemia:
Cancer can occur in either the lymphoid or myeloid white blood cells.

›When the cancer develops in the lymphocytes (lymphoid cells), it is called lymphocytic leukemia.

› When the cancer develops in the granulocytes or monocytes (myeloid cells), it is called myelogenous leukemia.

2. acute or chronic leukemia:
Leukemia is either acute or chronic.

acute leukemia
The new or immature cells, called blasts, remain very immature and cannot perform their functions. The blasts increase in number rapidly, and the disease progresses quickly.

chronic leukemia
There are some blast cells present, but they are more mature and are able to perform some of their functions. The cells grow more slowly, and the number increases less quickly, so the disease progresses gradually.

Based on these findings, the leukemia is then classified into one of the four main types of leukemias: acute myelogenous leukemia (AML); chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML); acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL); or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

What is acute myelogenous leukemia?

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood in which too many granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, are produced in the bone marrow.

Normally, bone marrow cells mature into several different types of blood cells. Acute myelogenous leukemia affects the young blood cells (called blasts) that develop into a type of white blood cell (called granulocytes). The main function of granulocytes is to destroy bacteria. The blasts, which do not mature and become too numerous, remain in the bone marrow and blood. Acute leukemia can occur over a short period of days to weeks. Chromosome abnormalities (extra chromosomes and structural changes in the chromosome material) are present in the majority of ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia) patients.

According to the American Cancer Society, of the 33,440 leukemia cases expected in 2004 about 15,750 will be acute. AML will account for 11,920 of the acute cases in 2004.

What are the symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia?

The following are the most common symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is acute myelogenous leukemia diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for acute myelogenous leukemia may include the following:

Treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia:

Specific treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia will be determined by your physician based on:

Treatment may include:

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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