Acute Myeloid Leukemia (Pediatric)
What is acute myeloid leukemia?
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer that occurs when the bone marrow (the body’s blood factory) produces abnormal cells called myeoblasts. The leukemic myeoblasts may spread to other parts of the body such as the brain, spinal cord, skin, and gums. Sometimes they form a solid lump or tumor called a granulocytic sarcoma (chloroma).
What causes acute myeloid leukemia?
The etiology of AML is essentially unknown, however, the following factors may predispose some children to develop this condition:
- Certain types of ionizing radiation
- Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene
- Down syndrome
- Having had chemotherapy for a previous illness
- Some genetic disorders that cause bone marrow failure syndromes
What are the symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia?
Children with this condition have:
- Bone or joint pain
- Bleeding or easy bruising
- Skin rashes
How is acute myeloid leukemia diagnosed?
- History and physical examination
- Complete blood count demonstrating abnormalities in the white blood cells, red blood cells, and/or platelets
- Presence of myeoblasts (immature cancer cells)
- Peripheral blood flow cytometry
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy to assess morphology, immunophenotype, and cytogenetics
- Lumbar puncture (also called a spinal tap) to see if cancer cells exist in the fluid in the spine (cerebrospinal fluid)
What is the treatment for acute myeloid leukemia?
- Intensive chemotherapy in which medicines are given to attack the cancer cells.
- Treatment is supplemented with antibiotics, transfusions, and nutrition.
- Newly developed targeted therapies and immunotherapies are used in some cases.
- Stem cell transplants may be necessary to help eradicate AML and restore healthy bone marrow.