Adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This type of cancer usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated. It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. AML is also called acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.
the bone marrow produces stem cells (immature cells) that develop into mature blood cells. There are 3 types of mature blood cells:
In AML, the stem cells usually develop into a type of immature white blood cell called myeloblasts (or myeloidblasts). The myeloblasts in AML are abnormal and do not mature into healthy white blood cells. Sometimes in AML, too many stem cells develop into abnormal red blood cells or platelets. These abnormal white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets are also called leukemia cells or blasts. Leukemia cells are unable to do their usual work and can build up in the bone marrow and blood so there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. When this happens, infection, anemia, or easy bleeding may occur. The leukemia cells can spread outside the blood to other parts of the body, including the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin, and gums.
This summary is about adult AML.
Refer to the following PDQ summaries for information about other types of leukemia:
The AML subtypes are based on how mature (developed) the cancer cells are at the time of diagnosis and how different they are from normal cells.
Possible risk factors for AML include the following:
The early signs of AML may be like those caused by the flu or other common diseases. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems
The following tests and procedures may be used:
The extent or spread of cancer is usually described as stages. In adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the subtype of AML and whether the leukemia has spread outside the blood and bone marrow are used instead of the stage to plan treatment. The following tests and procedures may be used to determine if the leukemia has spread:
The disease is described as untreated, in remission, or recurrent.
Untreated adult AML
In untreated adult AML, the disease is newly diagnosed. It has not been treated except to relieve symptoms such as fever, bleeding, or pain and the following are true:
Adult AML in remission
In adult AML in remission, the disease has been treated and the following are true:
Recurrent Adult AML
Recurrent AML is cancer that has recurred
(come back) after it has been treated. The AML may come back in the
blood or bone marrow.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on:
It is important that acute leukemia be treated right away.
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