To speak to a specialist cancer nurse,
freefone the National Cancer Helpline
1800 200 700
Mon—Thurs 9am—7pm Fri 9am—5pm
The symptoms of AML can be vague at first and appear like flu. Other symptoms include:
Even though these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than leukaemia, do have them checked by your family doctor (GP).
Testing for cancer when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no national leukaemia screening programme in Ireland or anywhere else in the world. If you are worried about developing leukaemia, contact the National Cancer Helpline 1800 200 700 or speak to your GP.
Visit your family doctor (GP) first if you are worried about any symptoms. He or she will examine you and arrange blood tests if needed. If your blood test is abnormal, you may be referred to a specialist called a haematologist, who treats abnormal changes to blood and bone marrow. At the hospital, some of the following tests may be done to diagnose AML:
A bone marrow biopsy involves taking a small sample of marrow from the inside of your hip or breastbone and examining it under a microscope. Special tests can also be done on blood or bone marrow samples. For example, the number and shape of chromosomes in your blood cells, especially the lymphocytes, can be examined. These are then compared to normal cells. Sometimes in AML, part of one chromosome is moved to another chromosome and a new one formed. This is called the Philadelphia chromosome. Immunophenotyping can check what kind of proteins or markers are on the surface of the leukaemia cells.
The above scans can help to stage the cancer.
Most types of cancer are given a numbered stage, which describes their extent in the body. This depends on the size of the tumour and if it has spread in the body.
However acute myeloid leukaemia does not usually forms solids tumours but can involve the bone marrow and in some cases other organs such as the liver and spleen. Therefore the staging system for AML is different as it looks at different information about your cancer. Knowing the stage of your cancer allows your doctor to decide on the best treatment for you.
There are two systems used to classify AML into subtypes. These are the French-American-British (FAB) classification and the World Health Organisation (WHO) classification.
French-American-British (FAB) classification
The FAB classification divides acute myeloid leukaemia into subtypes M0 through to M7. It is based on how the leukaemia cells look under the microscope. It does not refer to how severe your cancer is.
M0: acute myeloid leukaemia with little myeloid differentiation
M1: acute myeloid leukaemia without maturation
M2: acute myeloid leukaemia with maturation
M3: acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL)
M4: acute myelomonocytic leukaemia
M5: acute monocytic/monoblastic leukaemia
M6: acute erythroleukaemia
M7: acute megakaryoblastic leukaemia
World Health Organisation (WHO) classification
The WHO classification system divides AML into several broad groups by the type of abnormal myeloid cell and if:
Your doctor will also take other factors into account when deciding on the best treatment for you. These include:
Leukaemia cells in the central nervous system
Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm