Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
This section is for teenagers and young adults and is about a type of cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). The other main type of leukaemia that can affect teenagers and young adults is acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. If you have a different type of leukaemia and want to know more, please contact us.
We also have more info about:
For information about AML in people of all ages, please see our general AML section.
Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells. In leukaemia, the process for making new white blood cells gets out of control.
Immature white blood cells (called blasts) keep being made and build up in the bone marrow until there isn’t enough room for the bone marrow to make healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. The body needs these cells to:
- help us fight infection (white cells)
- carry oxygen from the lungs around our body (red blood cells)
- stop us bleeding when we cut ourselves by clotting our blood (platelets).
Many of the symptoms of AML are caused by having fewer than normal healthy blood cells in the body. Symptoms can include:
- looking paler than usual and feeling tired - because of too few red blood cells (anaemia)
- bruises - you may bruise more easily and it could take longer for bleeding to stop, if you have less blood clotting cells (platelets) than normal
- infections - because there are too few mature white blood cells to fight infection
- aches and pains in your bones
- swollen glands (lymph nodes) in your neck, under your arm or in your groin
- feeling unwell and run down
- fever and sweats - you may have a high temperature without any obvious cause, such as an infection
- headaches and blurred vision – because of too many white blood cells
- breathlessness – because of too many white blood cells.
We don't know exactly what causes AML, but research is going on to try to find out. We do know some things might increase the risk of AML:
- Some genetic conditions, like Down's Syndrome. A genetic condition is something you are born with.
- Some non-cancerous conditions of the bone marrow, such as aplastic anaemia or myelodysplastic syndromes.
If you're worried about AML
If you think you might have any of the symptoms of AML, you should go to your GP. They'll talk to you about your symptoms, examine you and can arrange tests or refer you to see a specialist. Remember that the symptoms can be caused by other things, but it’s important to go and get checked if you are worried.