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Acute Myeloid Leukemia

What is AML? 

  • Acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, is a fast-growing cancer that typically forms in the bone marrow from cells that are meant to divide and grow into different types of blood cells, such as red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells.1 
  • In people with AML, the disease usually starts with immature blood cells called “blasts” that grow and divide quickly in the bone marrow, forming a multitude of abnormal cells. A build-up of these abnormal cells occurs, eventually crowding out healthy blood cells.2
  • AML, like many blood cancers, is complex and actually a group of many diseases distinguished by:3 
    • Cell type 
    • Chromosomal rearrangements 
    • Genetic mutations 
  • Classification of AML continues to evolve based on our understanding of disease biology. 

What is the impact of AML?  

  • AML initially develops in the bone marrow, but often moves into the blood and may sometimes spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous center, and testicles.4 
  • It is the most common type of aggressive leukemia in adults.
  • Each year, approximately 20,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with AML in the U.S.6 
  • AML generally affects older adults, and has the lowest survival rate of all leukemias, 68 is the median age of diagnosis and the 5-year survival rate is 25 percent.5,6

What are the symptoms of AML?

  • Signs and symptoms of AML can vary between people. These symptoms may be seen in other conditions as well.7
    • Weight loss 
    • Fatigue 
    • Fever 
    • Night sweats 
    • Loss of appetite 
    • Infections 
    • Easy bruising or bleeding 
  • Many signs and symptoms of AML are caused by abnormally low numbers of healthy blood cells.  

How is AML treated?

  • For this aggressive disease, doctors typically begin treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis. Currently treatment options for AML may include:2 
    • Chemotherapy 
    • Stem cell transplant 
    • Radiation 
    • Targeted therapies 
    • Transfusions can help restore the level of these blood cells are common in people with this disease.

To learn more about the most common types of blood cancers and what makes them unique, visit our video on the Diversity of Blood Cancers. 


1. NCCN Guidelines for Patients Acute Myeloid Leukemia. https://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/content/PDF/aml-patient.pdf. Accessed September 30, 2020.

2. National Cancer Institute. Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. https://www.gene.com/patients/disease-education/acute-myeloid-leukemia. Accessed September 30, 2020.

3. National Cancer Institute. Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/hp/adult-aml-treatment-pdq#section/_9. Accessed September 30, 2020.

4. American Cancer Society. What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia/about/what-is-aml.html. Accessed September 30, 2020.

5. American Cancer Society. 2020 Cancer Facts and Figures. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2020/cancer-facts-and-figures-2020.pdf. Accessed September 30, 2020.

6.  American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed September 30, 2020.

7. American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukemia.https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html. Accessed September 30, 2020.