Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of myeloid line of blood cells. This disease is characterized by rapid growth of defective white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow, obstructing the production of normal and healthy blood cells. This is a rare disease but every year it causes about 1.2% of cancer deaths in the United States. About 10,500 new cases are discovered each year in the United States. The associated symptoms are always resultant from the replacement of normal bone marrow with leukemic cells. First line symptoms include decrease in red blood cell count, platelets and functional white blood cells. As a result, many other physical symptoms may appear.
Signs and symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia
Various symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia are linked to different changes in normal blood cell levels. For example, lack of functional white blood cells will typically make a patient more susceptible to infections. Lack of red blood cells normally causes anemia and manifests in fatigue, pale appearance and shortness of breath. Moreover, patients who have low platelets will easily bruise and may bleed even with a minor trauma.
In most cases symptoms are non-specific and may be similar to the symptoms of influenza or any other infectious disease. Sometimes, there may be enlargement of the spleen. Swelling of the gums is a rare symptom but also possible. However, some individuals may have no symptoms at all. In these patients, acute myeloid leukemia is discovered during a routine blood test.
Acute myeloid leukemia prognosis
The most important thing is that acute myeloid leukemia is a curable disease. However, it does cause significant number of deaths each year. The exact prognosis for this disease depends on a number of factors. The overall prognosis is that 30-45% of all patients have a chance to become cured. The prognosis is usually better for younger patients, and the median age at diagnosis is 63 years. The most important factor is the chromosomal structure of the leukemic cell, known as cytogenetic. Cytogenetic abnormalities are associated with poorer prognosis and higher risk of relapse.
When acute myeloid leukemia arises from pre-existing myelodysplastic syndrome or myeloproliferative disease, the prognosis is usually very poor. Other factors associated with poorer outcomes are if the patient’s age is more than 60 years, or if the general physical condition and the activity level are low. All these factors may decide on how the patient’s body will respond to the treatment. Treatment usually consists of chemotherapy.