How to pronounce it:
My-uh-LAH-juh-nus With AML, you have an increased number of abnormal myeloid cells, white blood cells including neutrophils and monocytes. Immature neutrophils are called myelocytes.
You may hear these names of various white cells during your treatment. If you are interested, you can keep referring to this section if you forget ‘which is which’.
How Did I Get to Be So Special?
For some reason, AML is less common in kids than ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia). Treatment for AML is more intense than for other kinds of leukemia. The abnormal cells in AML can become resistant to some kinds of chemotherapy that should destroy them but don’t. This can make your cancer more difficult to treat but don’t worry – there are many types of treatment available.
Treatment for AML:
There are different phases in the treatment of AML:
- The first phase, called induction chemotherapy, is aimed at achieving remission. Remission is when bone marrow, examined under the microscope, has no visible leukemia cells (or blasts). The red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells also appear normal.
- What happens next depends on your individual circumstance:
Bone Marrow Transplant
If you have brothers or sisters, their blood may be compared to yours to see if you “match”. That means they have the same proteins on their white blood cells and that their cells are genetically compatible. If your brother or sister is a “match”, you may have a bone marrow transplant after you’ve achieved remission. Prior to bone marrow transplantation, high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation are given. The good news is that these high doses are effective at killing off any remaining cancer cells. The doses are so high, however, they also destroy your ability to make new blood cells. After the high dose treatment, your donor’s marrow is given to you through an infusion into one of your veins. It amazingly finds its way into the bone marrow spaces in your bones and starts making new blood cells. If you do not have a sibling who can donate bone marrow, your medical team and you might decide to look for another bone marrow donor. If you think you will need a bone marrow transplant, click here for more information on Bone Marrow Transplantation.
If your medical team feels a bone marrow transplant is not an option, you may continue with more chemotherapy.
The Bottom Line
Be sure to discuss all the details of your AML treatment plan with your medical team. It is important that you understand everything that will be happening to your body so you can stay strong and make good decisions. The road ahead of you may be a rocky one but you will manage it better if you are in the driver’s seat. Remember – lots of kids with your same disease have made it!