Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in Children

May 16, 2024
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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It can be hard to get a diagnosis for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). However, things can become a lot clearer when you know what an effective treatment strategy looks like. A deeper understanding can make all the difference. This blog post will equip you with the knowledge to provide the best possible care for your child. Let’s dive deep into what AML is, its symptoms, and treatment options.  

What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)?

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a severe and aggressive form of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. The disease is characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.

  • Prevalence: Though AML is more common in adults, it does affect a significant number of children, making it a critical area of focus in pediatric oncology.
  • Impact on Health: These abnormal cells can quickly spread to other organs and systems, causing many health complications.

Myeloblasts: The Hallmark of AML

The hallmark of AML is the presence of myeloblasts — immature white blood cells that do not function properly. Their accumulation leads to less room for healthy cells, resulting in decreased immunity and more. Here at Care Options for Kids, we understand what AML is and what your family is going through. This can be a difficult process, but we offer the knowledge and tools to help you through your journey. 

Our skilled nurses not only provide top-notch medical attention tailored to your child’s needs and but also bring a deep understanding of the emotional and practical support your family needs during this time. By choosing in-home care, you gain more than medical expertise; you gain a partner in navigating the challenges of pediatric illness, allowing your family to focus more on being together in a familiar, comforting environment.

AML Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of AML early can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Fever and Infection: Infections are more frequent and harder to treat due to a lack of normal white blood cells.
  • Fatigue: Caused by anemia, fatigue is a common symptom due to insufficient red blood cells.
  • Easy Bruising or Bleeding: Impaired production of platelets leads to this symptom.
  • Bone Pain: This is particularly common in areas where the bone marrow is active, like the spine and ribs.

They encourage families to seek medical advice if they notice these symptoms which lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment, which is often critical.

AML Causes & Risk Factors

While the exact cause of AML is not known, several risk factors have been identified:

  • Genetic Mutations: Some children are born with genetic changes that increase their risk of developing AML.
  • Environmental Exposure: Exposure to high radiation levels or certain chemicals like benzene has been linked to AML.

Educating parents about these risk factors provides clarity and helps manage potential risks.

Diagnosing AML

The diagnosis of AML involves several steps, each crucial for determining the best course of treatment:

  • Blood Tests: These tests can show abnormal levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy: This is the definitive test for AML, involving the examination of marrow extracted from the bone.

Treatment Options for AML

Treatment for AML usually consists of a combination of therapies:

  • Chemotherapy: The first line of defense, aiming to kill cancerous cells.
  • Stem Cell Transplant: In cases where chemotherapy isn't practical, a transplant might be necessary.
  • Targeted Therapy: This newer form of treatment targets specific aspects of cancer cells.

Schedule Your Child’s Care Assessment Today

At Care Options for Kids, we understand the unique challenges of caring for a child with basic or medically-complex health conditions. Our dedicated team of pediatric home health nurses are here to support your family with compassionate, expert care tailored to your child’s needs. Contact us today to schedule an assessment and learn how we can help you navigate this journey with confidence and care.

Click here to start your journey to better care.