Acute Myelogenous Leukemia or AML, is a rare type of cancer that strikes people of all ages. More often than not, however, it is more common for people to be diagnosed with it after the age of sixty. This leukemia is not just one disease, however, it is actually a group of leukemias in which there are eight other sub-classes of AML. What these related diseases have in common is that they are all cancers of the blood and bone marrow. Each of these sub-classes of cancers result from damage to the genes that control the normal process of making more blood cells. The classification of AML is determined by what type of blood cells are affected, as well as the point where the mutated cells stopped maturing.
Basic Causes of AML
Like so many cancers it is difficult to know exactly what causes AML, but many studies indicate that it is the result of some type of damage to any of the genes controlling overall blood cell development. What is better known are some of the risk factors for this class of leukemia. These risk factors include:
Sudden exposure to an extreme amount of radiation greatly increases the risk for developing AML, such as what one experiences from a nuclear reactor accident. The effects of longterm exposure to the lower amounts of radiation experienced during CT scans and x-rays, however, are a little less clear. Some exposure is inevitable, of course, but most physicians try to limit testing to only what is necessary for medical diagnosis and treatment.
Some studies show that high levels of longterm exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene, is another risk factor for AML. Benzene is a common solvent used in oil refineries, chemical plants and other gasoline-related industries, but it is also an ingredient in more common items. Cigarette smoke, some cleaning detergents, art supplies, paint strippers, as well as some glues, are just some of the known products to have benzene.
Oddly enough, there are also certain chemotherapy drugs that might increase the risk of someone developing AML. When receiving chemotherapy, most physicians are diligent to discuss these risks, as well as alternative options.
Individuals who have a certain type of blood disorder, such as chronic myeloproliferative disease or myelodysplastic syndrome are also at risk for developing AML. This is largely due to already having a low blood cell count and abnormal cells in their blood and bone marrow.
Smoking is probably the largest and most proven indicator for AML that is related to lifestyle choices. There are cancer-causing substances that are absorbed by the lungs, and these substances can spread into the bloodstream and throughout the body as well.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Symptoms
While there are currently no tests to help in the early detection of AML, there are certain signs and symptoms that provide some insight. As with all signs and symptoms, some are more subtle than others and all are often signs of diseases other than leukemia. The key point is to not ignore these symptoms. General symptoms are weight loss, extreme fatigue, fever, night sweats and loss of appetite. There are many more symptoms that vary, depending on which cells are affected. Here are a few of those symptoms:
Anemia, caused by a low red blood cell count, causes extreme fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath and sensitivity to the cold.
Leukopenia or neutropenia is an indication of low white blood cells. A shortage of these white blood cells is indicated by a difficulty in fighting off infections or frequently reoccurring infections.
Low blood platelet count, or thrombocytopenia is another symptom of AML. This symptom is usually detected through excessive bruising and bleeding, frequent and severe nosebleeds or bleeding gums.
Bone and joint pain, swelling in the abdomen due to an enlarged liver or spleen, rashes on the skin and enlarged lymph nodes are all serious symptoms that you do not want to ignore.
Acute myelogenous leukemia is treatable and often goes into remission following successful treatment. The key is paying attention to what your body is telling you. Do not ignore potential signs or symptoms, and do not put off getting examined by your doctor. Early detection and treatment is extremly important with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, as with all types of cancers. You may want to look for different blood cancer treatment Singapore for more information.