The affected cells produce abnormal blood cells. Cells produced by the damaged cells are immature and develop into cancer cells called myeloblasts. These myeloblasts are produced in large amounts and soon crowd out the normal healthy cells.
The actual cause of DNA damage in the marrow cells is not clear. Some of the factors that are identified as risk factors include:
High dose radiation – very high doses of radiation ie. chemotherapy
Exposure to industrial chemicals – chemicals like benzene may trigger DNA damage when exposed over a long term of period.
Tobacco – tobacco smoke for a long period exposes the person to harmful chemicals
Blood disorders - pre-existing blood disorders like myeloblastic syndrome increases the risk of this condition.
Genetic disorders – certain genetic disorders like Down syndrome and Bloom syndrome enhance the risk of AML
Blood tests – a complete blood count reveals higher levels of white blood cells with low levels of red blood cells and platelets. Blood tests also help to identify the abnormal blood cells that indicate cancer.
Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy – a bone marrow aspiration is used to remove a fluid sample from the bone marrow. A biopsy is used to remove a small section of tissue from the marrow. Analysis of the samples help in diagnosing this blood cancer.
Other tests like flow cytometry, cytochemistry and karyotyping help in identifying specific genes and proteins that are characteristic of AML
Spinal tap – a spinal tap or lumbar puncture is used to take a sample of cerebrospinal fluid in order to check for cancer cells.
Imaging techniques – images of body parts helps to identify the cause of symptoms and to diagnose infections. Imaging methods like a CT scan or MRI are commonly used for this purpose.
Subtypes of AML are based on the characters determined by microscopic examination of the cells.
Treatment of Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) depends on the age of the patient, the type of AML, and the overall health of the patient.
The different treatment options available for AML include:
Chemotherapy – this method uses medications to destroy cancer cells and to prevent the growth of abnormal cells. The drug may be given intravenously, orally or in the form of an injection. The first phase of this is induction therapy in which the drug is given within 3-4 weeks of diagnosis. Induction therapy focuses on destroying cancer cells and resolving the symptoms. The second phase is remission consolidation or intensification therapy in which a combination of drugs is given to kill the remaining abnormal cells. In the third phase, remission maintenance therapy, treatment is continued to prevent recurrence of AML. A preventive treatment called central nervous system prophylaxis is given to prevent the cancer spreading to the brain and spinal cord.
Targeted therapy – with this method, specific genes or proteins that induce cancer are targeted. It prevents the growth and spread of cancer cells. More and more molecular targets are now being tested for the control of cancer.
Radiation therapy – a high energy X-ray helps to destroy cancer cells. The radiation is given over a period of time.
Bone marrow transplant – the affected bone marrow is replaced by highly specialized cells that may develop into healthy bone marrow.
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