There are different subtypes of childhood AML, which are based on:
- The type of blood cell that is affected
- How mature (developed) the cancer cells are at the time of diagnosis
- How different they are from normal cells.
The treatment for most subtypes of AML is similar. However, acute promyelocytic leukemia, which is one subtype of AML, is treated differently from other types of AML.
No one knows the exact cause of acute myeloid leukemia, and doctors can seldom explain why one child will get AML and another child will not. However, leukemia research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop this condition. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.
Risk factors for childhood AML include:
- Having a brother or sister, especially a twin, with leukemia
- Being Hispanic
- Being exposed to cigarette smoke or alcohol before birth
- Past treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Being exposed to ionizing radiation or chemicals such as benzene
- Having certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome
- Having a history of myelodysplastic syndrome (also called pre-leukemia) or aplastic anemia.
Like all blood cells, leukemia cells travel through the body. Depending on the number of abnormal cells and where these cells collect, patients with childhood AML may have a number of AML symptoms.
Common childhood AML symptoms may include:
- Fever with or without an infection
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or feeling tired
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Petechiae (flat, pinpoint spots under the skin caused by bleeding)
- Pain in the bones or joints
- Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs.
Other childhood AML symptoms include painless blue or purple lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach, groin, or other parts of the body. These lumps are called leukemia cutis. Other painless lumps sometimes appear around the eyes. These lumps, called chloromas, are sometimes seen in childhood AML and may be blue-green.
These and other possible symptoms of childhood AML may be caused by leukemia or by other conditions. Therefore, it's important to consult your child's healthcare provider if you child has potential symptoms.