Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a serious disease that can affect both children and adults. It is the second most common form of leukemia in kids and makes up 20% of childhood cases of leukemia.
Having a child diagnosed with AML is a terrible scenario, but thanks to advances in therapy and clinical trials, most children can be cured.
AML is a cancer of the bone marrow and lymph nodes and is acute, meaning it progresses rapidly and should be treated early to have the best chance of survival; if left untreated, death can occur within weeks. So in light of that, it's extremely important that you know of the early warning signs. The earlier your child is treated for leukemia, the better the chance will be for your child to become cured.
In healthy bones, bone marrow produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, which are vital to normal bodily function. These cells help protect the body and fight infections. AML causes the marrow to, instead, produce “myeloid blasts,” or abnormal cells, that cannot mature into the vital cells the body relies upon. These immature cells get circulated throughout the blood stream and tend to spread throughout the body, and maybe even into the organs.
Signs and Symptoms of AML
It is very important to pay close attention to your symptoms once you become ill, because some of the early AML symptoms mimic the flu and progress in severity.
- general ill feeling, accompanied with weakness and fatigue
- fever and chills
- bone and joint pain
- swollen lymph nodes
- bruising or bleeding easily; petechiae (tiny red spots under the skin caused by easy bleeding)
- abdominal pain, caused by cancer cells accumulating in the region
- chronic infections, such as bronchitis
- painless lumps, called “chloromas,” around the lymph nodes in the neck, groin, and armpits
There are no known specific causes of childhood AML, but there are some inherited genetic problems that may contribute. These include Fanconi anemia, Noonan syndrome, Neurofibromatosis type 1, and Down syndrome, among others.
Other Risk Factors for AML
- preleukemia and aplastic anemia
- children who have already been treated with chemo or radiation
- children who have an identical twin with the disease (A child with a twin that was diagnosed before age 6 has a 20 to 25% of developing AML; fraternal twins and other siblings have 2 to 4 times the average risk.)
- environmental factors, such as radiation exposure – especially in developing fetuses