Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Acute myeloid leukemia is a type of leukemia. Find out how AML starts, diagnosis and possible symptoms.

Key points

  • AML starts with a change in a cell that would normally become a myeloid white cell. The changed cell is called a myeloblast.
  • Myeloblasts divide out of control, filling up the bone marrow and stopping the production of healthy blood cells.
  • The type of AML is diagnosed through a bone marrow aspirate.
  • Symptoms of AML may include fever, weight loss, bruising or bleeding easily and swollen lymph nodes.

What is acute myeloid leukemia (AML)?

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of leukemia, a cancer of the blood. It is less common than acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). We can get some information about this type of cancer from the different parts of its name.

  • Acute means quick or short. AML usually develops quickly and can get worse quickly if it is not treated.
  • Myelogenous (say: my-uh-LOH-jen-us) comes from the name of the cell that AML develops from. Remember that leukemia starts with a mutation or change in the DNA of an immature white blood cell. In AML, this mutation is in a cell that would normally become a myeloid white cell. When it changes, it is called a myeloblast.

In AML, the mutation causes the myeloblasts to divide out of control and so they fill up the bone marrow and stop the bone marrow from making healthy blood cells.

Types of AML

There are different types of AML. Doctors diagnose the type you have by doing a bone marrow aspirate test. They take a sample of the bone marrow and then look at the leukemic myeloblasts under a microscope and also run them through a special machine. This helps doctors decide exactly what kind of AML you have, how to treat the AML, and how likely it is that you will recover from AML.

Symptoms of AML

Symptoms are signals from your body that something is wrong. When you have AML, symptoms might include:

  • a fever, because your body does not have enough white blood cells to fight infection or because of the leukemia itself
  • feeling tired, weak, or not hungry
  • losing weight
  • looking pale, because you do not have enough red blood cells
  • bruising or bleeding easily, because you do not have enough platelets to make a scab
  • swollen lymph nodes, liver or spleen - these are parts of your lymphatic system, where leukemia cells can grow and divide.

If you have any questions about your type of AML, what it means, your treatment or anything else about your cancer, ask someone on your health-care team. Your doctors and nurses want to help you understand.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019