ZOOMER Magazine

hard FACTS & real HOPE

For The Second Most Common Form Of Adult Leukemia


September is Blood Cancer Awareness month, a time for survivors, patient advocates and supporters to shine a light on this challengin­g cancer.

Chances are you may not know that much about blood cancer unless it has impacted you or someone you love. Maybe you know that blood cancer includes lymphoma, myeloma, Hodgkin’s disease, and leukemia. It’s less likely that you’d know about the different types of leukemia, including the second most common form, acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Uncommon in those under 45, AML is diagnosed in 1,100 older adults each year. Doctors call AML “acute” because the condition can progress rapidly; “myeloid” relates to the type of cell it affects, and “leukemia” refers to the blood or bone marrow.

Symptoms can include paleness, unexplaine­d bruising, fatigue and breathless­ness, fever, and weight loss.

AML has eight different subtypes. For most cancers, the stage and grade of cancer tumour can tell the healthcare team a lot about your prognosis and the best treatment plan. But because

AML presents throughout the blood, prognosis depends largely on the subtype, which is often determined by lab tests.

Dr. Brian Leber, Professor, McMaster University and clinical hematologi­st, notes, “Knowing your subtype can be very important not just for understand­ing the expected outcome but so that your healthcare team can make the best choices about your treatment path and assess how well therapy is working.” This is particular­ly important in the two high-risk AML subtypes.

High-risk AML includes therapeuti­c related (T-AML), caused by prior chemothera­py or radiation and myelodyspl­asia-related (AML-MRC), which occurs when a person has abnormal bone marrow cells due to another blood disorder.

The 5-year net survival for AML is only 21%. In high-risk AML it is even lower. However, while the prognosis of high-risk AML is sobering, the good news is that treatment advances have been made. Treatment typically consists of chemothera­py and where possible, stem cell transplant. In the last few years, research has yielded additional available treatment options, providing fresh hope for this difficult-to-treat population.

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