What Is Blood Cancer-Leukemia?

Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This type of cancer usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated. It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.

Normally the bone marrow produces stem cells (immature cells) that develop into mature cells. There are three types of mature blood cells.

  • Red blood cells that carry oxygen and other materials to all tissues of the body.
  • White blood cells that fight infection and disease.
  • Platelets that help prevent bleeding by causing blood clots to form.

In AML, the stem cells usually develop into a type of immature white blood cell called myeloblasts. The myeloblasts in AML are abnormal and do not mature into healthy white blood cells. Occasionally in AML, too many stem cells develop into abnormal red blood cells or platelets. These abnormal white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets are also called leukemia cells or blasts. Leukemia cells are unable to do their usual work and can build up in the bone marrow and blood so there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. When this happens, infection, anemia, or easy bleeding may occur. The leukemia cells can spread outside the blood to other parts of the body, including the central nervous system, skin, and gums.

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