Find out about how your doctor decides which treatment you need, the types of treatment you might have and treatment by stage.
A team of doctors and other professionals discuss the best treatment and care for you. They are called a multi disciplinary team (MDT).
Your MDT might include:
- blood cancer specialists called consultant haematologists
- haematology nurse specialists, also called clinical nurse specialists (CNS)
- doctors specialising in reporting bone marrow or lymph node biopsies (haemopathologists)
- doctors specialising in reporting x-rays and scans (radiologists)
- doctors specialising in diagnosing and controlling infection (microbiologists)
- social workers
- symptom control specialists called palliative care doctors and nurses
Deciding which treatment you need
Your MDT will discuss your treatment, its benefits and the possible side effects with you. Your treatment will depend on:
- the type of leukaemia you have
- your age, general health and level of fitness
- if you have gene changes (mutations) in the leukaemia cells
The main treatment for AML is chemotherapy.
Other treatments include:
- growth factors
- bone marrow and stem cell transplants
If you have a very high white blood cell count when you are diagnosed you might have leukapheresis. This removes the abnormal white blood cells from the blood. You won't have this if you have M3 AML, also called acute promyelocytic leukaemia. It can cause bleeding in this type of AML.
Other treatmentYou might need other treatments to support you while you have your main leukaemia treatment. This might be because you have an infection or to help with the side effects of treatment. These include:
- anti sickness medicines
- blood transfusions
- platelet infusions
Getting rid of the AML (induction)
The aim of the induction phase is to destroy the leukaemia cells. It's called remission induction. In remission there is no sign of the leukaemia in your blood or bone marrow.
The main treatment is chemotherapy.
The chemotherapy drugs kill off many of your bone marrow cells as well as the leukaemia cells. So you might need to stay in hospital for about a month until you have recovered.
Overall, between 5 and 7 out of 10 people (50 to 70%) with adult acute myeloid leukaemia go into remission with induction chemotherapy.
Stopping AML coming back (consolidation)
Once there is no sign of the leukaemia, you have consolidation treatment to stop it coming back again.
It may mean:
- more chemotherapy
- a bone marrow transplant
- if your leukaemia is in full remission
- if you have leukaemia after treatment for another cancer
- whether you had chronic leukaemia that has changed into acute leukaemia
- how many times you had chemotherapy before your leukaemia went into remission
- your general level of fitness and health
- your wishes about treatment
You might need more than one induction chemotherapy course before your leukaemia goes into remission. Then your doctor might suggest intensive chemotherapy treatment and:
- a donor transplant - if a donor is available
- a stem cell transplant using your own cells - this is rare
Having a bone marrow transplant is a very intensive treatment. Sometimes people die because of the treatment rather than from their cancer. People take this risk because transplant gives them the best chance of long term remission or cure.
You need to discuss all these pros and cons with your specialist team and the people close to you before making a decision.
Researchers are looking into the role of transplants in treating AML. The research aims to make these treatments safer and more successful.
AML that comes back or resists treatmentSometimes tests find leukaemia cells in the bone marrow after you have had treatment. You might:
- have more chemotherapy
- have a stem cell transplant as part of a clinical trial
- how long you were in remission
- your age and general level of fitness
- how your leukaemia cells look under the microscope
Your doctor will discuss all your treatment options with you.
Clinical trials to improve treatment
Your doctor might ask if you’d like to take part in a clinical trial.
Doctors and researchers do trials to:
make existing treatments better
develop new treatments