Acute Myeloid or Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) is a form of leukemia characterized by the rapid development of immature, abnormal white blood cells, known as myeloblasts. The myeloblasts are unable to take up the functions of healthy blood cells and tend to accumulate in the bone marrow and blood, crowding out the normal healthy cells. Although AML starts within the bone marrow, it quickly moves through the blood to the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, CNS, and the testes. According to the FAB classification, there are eight sub-types of AML, based on which of the blood cells are abnormal. Symptoms of AML include fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and weight, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. Since this form of leukemia is acute, the disease develops very rapidly, and can be fatal if not treated within weeks.
AML usually affects people over the age of 40, and is more commonly seen in men than in women. It is estimated that 1 in 272 individuals will be diagnosed with AML during their lifetime. Diagnosis of AML depends upon physical examination, blood profile on the basis of Complete Blood Count (CBC), blood chemistry studies, peripheral blood smear, as well as bone marrow aspiration, and cytogenetic analysis. Chemotherapy is the primary mode of treatment, and involves an induction phase, in which leukemic cells are brought down to the lowest level possible, followed by a consolidation phase, in which any residual disease is also eliminated.