Understanding Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Types, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Understanding Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Types, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a severe and aggressive form of leukemia characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. It is critical for patients and their families to understand the complexity of AML to better navigate treatment options and anticipate the progression of the disease.

Types of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Classification Based on Genetic Abnormalities

AML is primarily categorized by specific genetic changes found in the leukemia cells. These classifications help determine the most effective treatment strategies and are critical for prognosis:

  • FLT3: This gene mutation is associated with a high relapse rate.

  • TP53: Mutations in this gene are typically linked to chemotherapy resistance.

  • NPM1: Mutations in NPM1 often occur without the presence of FLT3 mutations and generally have a more favorable prognosis.

WHO Classification

The World Health Organization classifies AML into several subtypes based on the type of cell from which the leukemia develops and the maturity of the cells:

  • AML with recurrent genetic abnormalities

  • AML with myelodysplasia-related changes

  • Therapy-related AML

  • AML not otherwise specified

Symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

The symptoms of AML can be subtle at first but generally become more pronounced as the disease progresses. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and Weakness: Due to anemia caused by a lack of red blood cells.

  • Frequent Infections: From a shortage of normal white blood cells.

  • Easy Bruising or Bleeding: Caused by a reduced platelet count.

  • Fever and Night Sweats: Common signs of the body fighting an infection.

Prompt recognition of these symptoms can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment, which is vital for improving survival rates.

Risk Factors for Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Several factors can increase the risk of developing AML, including:

  • Age: The majority of AML cases occur in adults over the age of 45.

  • Previous Cancer Treatment: Exposure to certain chemotherapies and radiation can increase the risk.

  • Genetic Disorders: Certain genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, are associated with a higher risk of AML.

  • Exposure to Chemicals: Benzene, a solvent used in the chemical industry, is notably linked to an increased risk of AML.

Understanding these risk factors can aid in the prevention or early detection of the disease.

Diagnostic and Treatment Strategies

Diagnostic Tests

The diagnosis of AML involves several tests that confirm the presence of leukemia cells and help classify the type of AML:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): To check for abnormal levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

  • Bone Marrow Biopsy: To examine the number and type of cells in the bone marrow.

  • Genetic Testing: To identify specific mutations in leukemia cells.

Current Treatment Approaches

Treatment for AML typically involves a combination of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and in some cases, stem cell transplantation:

  • Chemotherapy: The mainstay of treatment used to kill leukemia cells.

  • Targeted Therapy: Drugs designed to specifically attack certain genetic changes in leukemia cells.

  • Stem Cell Transplantation: Used to replace the diseased bone marrow with healthy cells.


Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a complex disease that requires a comprehensive understanding of its types, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options. Through advanced diagnostics and tailored treatment plans, there is hope for patients to achieve remission and maintain quality of life. Ongoing research and clinical trials continue to improve the outcomes and provide new strategies in the fight against AML. For those seeking expert care, consulting with a leading Oncologist in Hyderabad can provide access to these innovative treatments and a pathway to better health.

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