Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in Children: Understanding the Basics

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Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. While it is more commonly found in adults, it can also occur in children. AML in children is a topic that requires attention and understanding, as it presents unique challenges and considerations.

What is Acute Myeloid Leukaemia?

AML is a type of cancer that affects the myeloid cells, which are responsible for producing red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In AML, these cells become abnormal and rapidly multiply, leading to a decrease in healthy blood cells.

AML in Children

AML is relatively rare in children, accounting for only about 15% of childhood leukemia cases. It is most commonly diagnosed in children between the ages of 2 and 5, although it can occur at any age. Boys are slightly more likely to develop AML than girls.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of AML in children is not yet fully understood. However, certain risk factors have been identified, including:

  • Genetic Disorders: Children with certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, have a higher risk of developing AML.
  • Chemotherapy and Radiation: Children who have received previous treatment for other cancers may be at an increased risk of developing AML.
  • Family History: In rare cases, AML can run in families, indicating a genetic predisposition.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of AML in children can vary, but some common signs include:

  • Fatigue: Children may appear tired or weak, even after getting enough rest.
  • Infections: Frequent infections or illnesses that do not respond to treatment may be a sign of AML.
  • Bruising and Bleeding: Easy bruising, nosebleeds, or bleeding gums may indicate a problem with blood clotting.
  • Pale Skin: AML can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to pale skin or shortness of breath.

If AML is suspected, a series of tests will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis. These may include blood tests, bone marrow aspiration, and biopsy. Once diagnosed, further tests will determine the subtype of AML and its specific genetic characteristics, which can help guide treatment decisions.

Treatment Options

The treatment for AML in children typically involves a combination of chemotherapy and, in some cases, stem cell transplantation. The specific treatment plan will depend on various factors, including the child’s age, overall health, and specific subtype of AML.

Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. This treatment is usually administered in cycles, allowing the body time to recover between treatments. In some cases, children may also undergo stem cell transplantation, which involves replacing damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy stem cells.

Prognosis and Follow-Up Care

The prognosis for children with AML has improved significantly over the years, thanks to advances in treatment. However, the outlook can vary depending on factors such as the child’s age, overall health, and response to treatment.

After completing treatment, regular follow-up appointments will be necessary to monitor the child’s progress and detect any signs of relapse. These appointments may include blood tests, bone marrow examinations, and imaging studies.

Support and Resources

A diagnosis of AML in a child can be overwhelming for both the child and their family. It is essential to seek support from healthcare professionals, support groups, and organizations that specialize in childhood cancer.

These resources can provide valuable information, emotional support, and connections to other families going through similar experiences. They can also help navigate the challenges of managing treatment, school, and everyday life.


Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in children is a complex and challenging condition. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for providing the best possible care and support to affected children and their families. With ongoing research and advancements in treatment, the prognosis for children with AML continues to improve, offering hope for a brighter future.


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