What are the Different Types of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment?

H. Colledge

Acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, is a form of cancer which develops from cells inside the bone marrow which would normally have gone on to form white blood cells. It is the most common type of acute, or rapidly developing, leukemia in adults. Different types of acute myelogenous leukemia treatment are available, including chemotherapy, where drugs are used to kill cancer cells, and radiotherapy, which uses radiation for the same purpose. A stem cell transplant can restore normal blood-forming cells to the bone marrow. Treating acute myelogenous leukemia may also involve the use of other drugs or new methods still being trialled.

Chemotherapy, a treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia, can cause hair loss.
Chemotherapy, a treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia, can cause hair loss.

The symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia can include tiredness, fever, increased infections and bleeding from areas of the body such as the gums. Treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia usually consists of two separate phases. In the first phase, remission induction therapy, the aim is to destroy cancer cells in the bone marrow and blood. The second phase, known as post-remission or consolidation therapy, aims to kill any cancer cells left behind after the first phase of treatment. This second phase is carried out to lower the chance of the cancer recurring.

Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat acute myelogenous leukemia.
Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat acute myelogenous leukemia.

During the remission induction therapy phase of acute myelogenous leukemia treatment, the main treatment method used is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs may be given by injection or taken as tablets, so that they reach the cancer cells via the blood stream. Sometimes the drugs are directly injected into the body at the cancer site. Most often it is necessary to remain in the hospital while remission induction therapy is carried out, as the acute myelogenous leukemia treatment causes a number of side effects and suppresses the body's immune system, making infections more of a risk. Sometimes, other drugs are used in combination with the chemotherapy treatment, or by themselves, for certain types of AML.

The consolidation therapy phase of acute myelogenous leukemia treatment can involve what is known as a bone marrow, or stem cell, transplant. First, chemotherapy or radiotherapy are used to kill the abnormal bone marrow tissue from which the cancer cells developed. Next, donated stem cells are used to replace the bone marrow which was destroyed. There is no single best acute myelogenous leukemia treatment, and trials continue to seek new and more effective therapies. Those acute myelogenous leukemia treatments which are available provide a cure for only some patients, with younger people generally having a better outlook.

A diagram of normal blood and blood from someone with leukemia.
A diagram of normal blood and blood from someone with leukemia.

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