Understanding Acute Myeloid Leukemia
- When an English teen began feeling ill last year, he was told it was just tonsillitis, but it turned out he had a rare type of leukemia.
- Acute myeloid leukemia, also known as AML, is a cancer that affects bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside of your bones. It’s a rare cancer overall, but it’s the most common type of leukemia in adults. Children rarely get AML.
- With AML, as cancer grows in a confined space (the bone marrow), the normal cells in this space that would be making the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, begin dying off. This leads to the bone marrow being filled with cancer cells.
Jordan Grainger, now 18, began treatment (intensive chemotherapy) shortly after learning he had acute myeloid leukemia. However, he and his family learned last month that he would have to have a bone marrow transplant to ensure his cancer won’t return.Read More
Jordan, who’s from Chelmsley Wood, England, went to see his doctor on Dec. 26, 2021, after he started to feel sick. His doctor told him he had tonsillitis and sent him home with antibiotics.
However, Jordan was back at his doctor’s office a few weeks later when his condition began to worsen. But while in the waiting room, Jordan collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.
A round of blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy later, Jordan and his family were told he had acute myeloid leukemia on Jan. 12. He remained in the hospital and began treatment shortly after his diagnosis.
After undergoing intensive chemotherapy, Jordan subsequently began consolidation chemotherapy, which included another three days of treatment. But now, a bone marrow transplant is the necessary next step.
Jordan’s younger brother was found to be a complete match, however, since he’s under 16 years old, the search is on to find Jordan another donor.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Jordan and his family. To donor, click here.
Understanding Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Acute myeloid leukemia, also known as AML, is a cancer that affects bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside of your bones. It’s a rare cancer overall, but it’s the most common type of leukemia in adults. Children rarely get AML.
“To understand acute myeloid leukemia, you have to understand how the bone marrow works,” Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, former director of the Leukemia Program at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center and current chief of the Division of Hematology at University of Miami Health System, previously told SurvivorNet. “The bone marrow is the factory that makes all of the cells that wind up in our blood stream.”
This so-called factory makes red blood cells that bring oxygen to our tissues, white blood cells that make up the immune system, as well as platelets, which help stop bleeding, Dr. Sekeres explained. All of these cells perform essential functions in the body, and a spike or decline in any of them can lead to some serious health issues.
“When a person has cancer of the bone marrow, such as acute myeloid leukemia or myelodysplastic syndromes, that factory gets broken. These are cancers,” he said. “Cancers grow, and they grow in an uncontrollable way.”
Dr. Sekeres pointed out that the way blood cancer grows is different from the way other, solid-tumor cancers grow. With breast cancer, for example, someone may develop a lump or a tumor that grows overtime. With AML, as cancer grows in a confined space (the bone marrow), the normal cells in this space that would be making the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, begin dying off. This leads to the bone marrow being filled with cancer cells.
There are many symptoms of AML, including:
AML symptoms include:
- Frequent infections
- Feeling tired or weak
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Petechiae, which are blood spots under the skin
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Dull or sharp bone pain, usually in the legs and arms
- Pale skin
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms (and are at an increased risk of developing AML), talk to your doctor.
Risk factors that put a person at an increased risk of developing AML include:
- If you are 65 years of age or older: The risk rises as you age.
- If you are male: Men are more likely to get AML than women.
- If you have been treated for cancer in the past: If you have had certain chemotherapy or radiation treatments, they might increase your risk of getting AML.
- If you have had certain exposures: Radiation or chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde might increase your risk.
- If you smoke, or have smoked in the past: Cigarette smoking has been linked to AML.
- If you had another blood disorder: Myelodysplasia or myelofibrosis could put you at greater risk.
- If you have certain genetic disorders: Down syndrome and other genetic syndromes affect AML risk.
Contributing: SurvivorNet staff reports