Microscopic view of acute myeloid leukemia

Acute myeloid leukaemia  (AML) is cancer of one type of white blood cell, and is normally a disease of the elderly but may also occur in children and young adults. The symptoms of Acute myeloid leukaemia include tiredness, recurrent infections, bruising, nose bleeds, bleeding from the gums and joints, and enlargement of the liver, spleen and lymph nodes. Serious bleeding into organs and rapidly progressive infection may occur.

The different types of leukaemia are differentiated by blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy. The marrow biopsy is usually taken from the breastbone or the pelvic bone under local anaesthetic.

Cytotoxic (toxic to the cells) and immunosupressant (suppresses the immunity) drugs are used initially in treatment, but later blood transfusions and intensive radiotherapy are commonly required. Bone marrow transplants are possible in younger patients.

Seventy per cent (70%) of adults can be given remission but fewer than 30% can be cured. If bone marrow transplantation is possible in younger patients, the cure rate rises to 50%.

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