Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

AML is a type of cancer that happens when your bone marrow (the spongy stuff inside your bones) isn’t working properly. 

What does it feel like?

Leukaemia will replace your healthy blood cells with ones that don’t work properly. This can mean that you may feel a bit poorly at times and possibly:

  • Get lots of coughs and colds
  • Feel tired and out of breath
  • Get lots of bruises even when you haven’t banged yourself

How is it diagnosed?

A blood test will show any changes in your blood. If the specialist thinks it might be ALL, they will need to take out a little bit of bone marrow to test. This is done using an anaesthetic so it won’t hurt.  

Will I need medicine and treatment?

AML is treated with a special medicine called chemotherapy that kills the cancer cells. The first step is to get you into remission. Being in remission means that the specialist can’t see any leukaemia cells in your blood or bone marrow through a microscope. You will need to stay at hospital a lot during this time, to make sure that you don’t pick up any other illnesses.

Some people will also need to have a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, but this depends on your leukaemia so talk to your specialist if you have any questions.

What will treatment feel like?

Chemotherapy might make you feel more tired and poorly than usual. It can make you feel a bit sick, change how much you need the toilet and you might lose your hair while you’re on treatment. This might sound a bit scary, but it is very normal and part of helping you get better.

If you are worried, you should talk to your nurse or doctor, or ask a family member – there are lots of different ways they can help you.

What will happen afterwards?

When your treatment has finished, you will still need to see a doctor regularly to make sure your cancer is staying away. When the doctor is sure that your cancer has gone away, they will want to make sure that your body continues to work properly after the treatment. Sometimes, people will need to continue having help, but lots of people get better without any problems.

Will I get ill again?

If you have had the regular treatment for AML, you will probably not have any problems because of your cancer. Some people that have had a transplant or different treatment might get poorly later on, but the doctor will make sure that they are given the help they need and are always there to talk about what is happening and answer any questions.

Content updated October 2015, next planned review 2018.

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