Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) may be the most common form of acute leukemia for adults, but recognizing symptoms can be difficult.
Dr. Gail Roboz, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, talked to SurvivorNet about common symptoms of AML, and the how the diagnosis is determined. According to Dr. Roboz, AML symptoms including shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, unexplained bruising, or infections. In some cases, patients may have no symptoms of AML at all, and therefore are diagnosed unexpectedly during a routine health evaluation.
“Often patients have no idea leukemia is even anywhere on the radar,” Dr. Roboz tells SurvivorNet.
Dr. Roboz says that these symptoms are due to problems with bone marrow, which produce white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. For patients with symptoms, physicians will perform a blood test, and if results come back unusual, then patients will be referred to a hematologist-oncologist. Abnormal blood test results typically show low blood cell or platelet counts. From there, physicians will perform a bone marrow biopsy in order to conclude an AML diagnosis.
According to the National Cancer Institute, early signs of AML can be caused by common diseases such as the flu, with patients experiencing fever, fatigue, or loss of appetite. As opposed to other types of cancer, screening tests have not been found helpful when trying to detect early stages of AML, and the American Cancer Society recommends people should report any symptoms to their doctor immediately, seeing as AML develops quickly.
Symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia can be really non-specific, so may be difficult to identify in some cases. This section explains what to look for and when to consult a doctor about symptoms.