In AML, the myeloid stem cells develop into a type of immature white blood cell called a myeloblast (or myeloid blast). These myeloblasts, or leukemia cells, are abnormal and do not become healthy white blood cells. The leukemia cells can build up in the blood and bone marrow so there is less room for healthy cells. When this happens, infection, anemia or easy bleeding may occur. The leukemia cells can spread outside the blood to other parts of the body, including the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin and gums. Sometimes leukemia cells form a solid tumor called a granulocytic sarcoma or chloroma.
Childhood AML symptoms include:
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or feeling tired
- Petechiae (flat, pinpoint spots under the skin caused by bleeding)
- Pain in the bones or joints
- Pain or feeling of fullness below the rib
- Painless lumps on the body that may be blue or purple
- Painless lumps around the eyes that may be blue-green
- An eczema-like skin rash
Risk factors include:
- Having a brother or sister, especially a twin, with leukemia
- Being Hispanic
- Being exposed to cigarette smoke or alcohol before birth
- Past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Being exposed to ionizing radiation or chemicals such as benzene
- Having certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, Fanconi anemia, neurofibromatosis type 1, Noonan syndrome or Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
Treatment is done in phases. Induction therapy is the first phase of treatment. Its purpose is to kill the leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow. This puts the leukemia into remission.
Consolidation/intensification therapy is the second phase. It begins once the leukemia is in remission. Its purpose is to kill any remaining leukemia cells that may not be active but could begin to regrow and cause a relapse.
The full-time pediatric hematologist oncologists affiliated with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital treat cancer and bleeding disorders in children and diagnose and provide all of your child’s treatments right here in the Lehigh Valley. Because our pediatric oncology practice is part of the Children’s Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute coalition of more than 230 children’s hospitals, our patients have access to the latest therapies and national clinical trials.