Acute myeloid leukemia most commonly affects aging adults. Doctors refer to this leukemia under several names, including:
AML cancer cells grow uncontrollably from cells normally developing into blood cells, spreading to other parts of your body. Acute myeloid leukemia is called “acute” because of its rapid spread when not treated. Untreated AML usually leads to quick fatality, in only a few months. The term “myeloid” in the cancer’s name refers to the myeloid cells where the leukemia begins.
AML develops in blood forming cells, usually those destined to become white blood cells – but not lymphocytes. These changes take place in your bone marrow, the spongy tissue tasked with making new blood cells inside some of your bones. Once AML begins, it quickly moves throughout your body through your bloodstream. Acute myeloid leukemia sometimes spreads to the liver, spleen, brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes and male testicles.
Acute leukemia and chronic leukemia are two classifications based upon how the cancerous cells appear under a microscope. Either your abnormal cells look like mature white blood cells or immature stem cells. Acute leukemia refers to immature stem cells called blasts. Chronic leukemia refers to mature-looking but abnormal white blood cells.
Acute leukemia blasts divide quickly, causing the cancer to also grow quickly. Acute leukemias often respond well to treatment, even leading to cure for many patients. But some types provide an unfavorable outlook.
Chronic leukemia cells do not fight infection as they normally would. They live too long, build up and choke normal cells out of your system. These cancers progress more slowly than acute leukemias, even allowing patients to live for many years despite the difficulty of achieving a cure.
The type of bone marrow cells affected by your cancer determines whether you gain diagnosis as myeloid leukemia or lymphocytic leukemia.
Myeloid leukemia begins in young myeloid cells, platelet-making cells or red blood cells. Lymphocytic leukemias develop in your lymphocytes in your bone marrow.
Each of these types of leukemia vary in treatment methods and outlook. They also vary according to whether the types are acute or chronic.