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A to Z: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

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May also be called: AML; Acute Myelogenous Leukemia; Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia; ANLL; Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia; Acute Granulocytic Leukemia; Acute Myelocytic Leukemia; Acute Monocytic Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (MY-uh-loid loo-KEE-me-uh) is a type of cancer that causes the body to make too many abnormal immature white blood cells (called myeloid blasts).

More to Know

Normally, white blood cells (WBCs) help fight infection and protect the body against disease. With leukemia, WBCs turn cancerous and multiply when they shouldn’t. This causes too many abnormal WBCs, which then interfere with the body’s ability to function normally.

In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), too many myeloid blasts are made. These cells are abnormal and cannot mature into normal white blood cells. Bad cells build up and fewer healthy cells are made, leading to serious complications.

Doctors don’t know what causes acute myeloid leukemia. AML is called “acute” because it tends to get worse quickly if left untreated. Common symptoms include bleeding from the nose and gums, easy bruising, fatigue, weakness, fever, and bone and joint pain.

Treatment for AML involves using chemotherapy to kill as many cancer cells as possible to achieve remission (a state where there is no evidence of disease in the body). The second phase (called post-remission, consolidation, or continuation therapy) is designed to eliminate any undetectable leukemia cells.

Keep in Mind

Thanks to advances in therapy and clinical trials, the outlook for kids with AML is promising. With treatment, most are cured.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.