It's important that your doctor is experienced in treating patients with acute leukemia or has access to an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) specialist.
Types of AML Treatment
Doctors use several types of treatment for adults with AML, some at different stages. Click on the links below to read more about each type of treatment.
- Chemotherapy or other drug therapies. Chemotherapy is the use of potent drugs or chemicals, often in combinations or intervals, to kill or damage cancer cells. Some different anticancer drugs are used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia (subtype M3).
- Stem cell transplantation. This may be used with a second phase of chemotherapy.
- Clinical trials. Clinical trials can involve therapy with new drugs and new drug combinations or new approaches to stem cell transplantation.
Finding the Best Treatment Approach
Most AML patients, particularly patients with high white cell counts, need treatment soon after diagnosis because of the disease's rapid progression. The initial goal of treatment usually is to get the patient into remission. The long-term goal is to cure the disease.
A number of factors affect the choice and outcome of treatment, including:
- Your AML subtype
- The results of cytogenetic analysis
- Whether you have received chemotherapy in the past to treat another type of cancer
- Whether you have had myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) or another blood cancer
- Whether the AML is in your central nervous system
- Whether your AML has not responded to treatment or has relapsed
- The presence of systemic infection at diagnosis
- Your age and general health.
As you develop a treatment plan with your doctor, be sure to discuss:
- The results you can expect from treatment
- The possibility of participating in a clinical trial, where you'll have access to advanced medical treatment that may be more beneficial to you than standard treatment
- Potential side effects, including long-term and late effects
You may find it helpful to bring a loved one with you to your doctor's visits for support, to take notes and ask follow-up questions. It's a good idea to prepare questions you'd like to ask when you visit your doctor. You can also record your conversations with your doctor and listen more closely when you get home.
To download lists of suggested questions to ask your healthcare providers, click here.
Other Treatment Considerations
- Age 60 or older, patient performance status, other health issues and AML risk factors are all considered in developing your treatment plan, which may vary from standard approaches. For instance, your body may not be able to tolerate toxic chemotherapy drugs or you may have other ailments that are more common as you age. These factors, among others, may make deciding on a treatment more complicated.
- If your child is being treated for AML, therapy may differ slightly from that of the average adult's therapy. See Childhood AML.
- If your cancer has returned (relapsed) or it's still present after you finish standard therapy (refractory leukemia), you may have a different treatment approach than the first time around. See Refractory and Relapsed AML.