ALL/AML Definition (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia – Acute Myeloid Leukemia)
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a variety of cancer where a person’s bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes, which is a type of white blood cell. It’s also possible for leukemia to affect other white blood cells, red blood cells, and blood platelets. Cancer patients that have previously been exposed to radiation therapy and chemotherapy may have an increased risk of developing ALL.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) has many other names, but all of them start with the word “acute,” which means the cancer has to potential to spread quickly if not treated with urgency. AML usually forms in cells that would turn into white blood cells, but it may also form in other varieties of blood-forming cells. This disease starts in the bone marrow, but quickly moves into the bloodstream. This means that it has high potential for spreading into distant parts of the body in a process call metastasis.
There is currently no staging system for ALL, so the disease is referred to as recurrent, untreated, or in remission. Untreated means that the disease has been diagnosed but treatment hasn’t started other than relieving symptoms associated with leukemia. When in remission, blood counts are normal and there are no signs of leukemia anywhere in the patient’s body other than the bone marrow, which must have less than 5% of cancer cells present. Recurrent means that the cancer has returned to the patient’s body.
AML is not often detected before it’s spread, so traditional staging isn’t used for the disease. So, instead of using the TNM staging method, AML is classified using a cellular, or cytologic, staging system. This staging is more useful for doctors because it generates a more accurate prognosis and provides valuable information that may help decide the best treatment options.
This cellular-based staging system is called the French-American-British classification, or FAB for short. Doctors use the following information to rate the disease from M0 through M7:
• The number and size of leukemia cells
• The total number of healthy blood cells
• Changes that appear in the chromosomes that make up the leukemia cells
• Other genetic abnormalities
The staging for AML is as follows:
• M0 or undifferentiated AML – In this, the earliest stage of AML, bone marrow cells show no significant signs of differentiation.
• M1 myeloblastic leukemia – In this stage, cells show some signs of granulocytic differentiation, but minimal cell maturation may or may not be present.
• M2 myeloblastic leukemia – In this stage, maturation of the bone marrow cells in beyond the granulocyte stage and varying amounts of granulocyte maturation.
• M3 promyelocytic leukemia – In this stage, most abnormal cells are early granulocytes and they may contain numerous small particles and have nucleuses with varied shapes and sizes.
• M4 myelomonocytic leukemia – In this stage, bone marrow and blood have monocytes and differentiated granulocytes in them, the percentage of which must be more than 20%. There may also be an increase in eosinophils, which is a granulocyte that often has a nucleus with two lobes.
• M5 monocytic leukemia – In this stage, one subset is characterized by poorly differentiated monoblasts, monocytes, and promonocutes. The other subset is characterized by a large number of the three, and the proportion of monocytes in the bloodstream may be higher than in the marrow.
• M6 erythroleukemia – In this stage, there is abnormal red blood cell-forming cells, and they make up more than 50% of the bone marrow’s nucleated cells.
• M7 megakaryoblastic leukemia – In this final stage, blast cells look like immature megakaryocytes. It may also be distinguished by extensive fibrous tissue deposits, also called fibrosis, in the bone marrow.
ALL is not common. There are nearly 6,000 new cases resulting in approximately 1,470 deaths in the United States annually. The risk for developing ALL is highest in children under 5 years of age. The risk of developing the disease declines slowly until the mid-20s and then rises again after the age of 50. About 6 out of 10 ALL cases are found in children.
The odds of developing ALL in a person’s lifetime is 1 in 1,000. The risk is slightly greater in males and higher in whites than African Americans. Even though children are more likely to develop the disease, adults are more likely to die from it. This is likely because children’s bodies are more adept at aggressive treatments, which are often required in patients suffering from ALL.
AML is more common than ALL, but it’s still relatively rare. In the United States this year, it is estimated that there will be nearly 20,000 new cases of AML, about half of which will perish from the disease. AML makes up about 32% of leukemia cases, making it the second most common variety of leukemia. Men are slightly more at risk of developing the disease.
The 5-year survival rate for AML is 24%, but survival depends on a variety of factors including the patient’s age. AMl is treatable with or without a bone marrow transplant, so be sure to review the pertinent section on treatment on this page.
It’s important to remember that symptoms associated with these two varieties of leukemia are far more likely to be the result of some other illness, or even merely fatigue. However, if you suffer from multiple symptoms, and they don’t seem to improve over time, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor and find out what’s ailing you.
Early signs and symptoms of ALL include:
• Fatigue or feeling weak
• Night sweats associated with fever
• Easy bleeding or bruising
• Petechiae, which are small spots under the skin caused by bleeding
• Pain in your bones or gut
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Shortness of breath
• Pain below the ribs
• Painless lumps in the stomach, underarm, groin, or neck
• Having persistent infections
The symptoms for AML are much the same as ALL. If the patient’s blood platelet counts are low, other symptoms may include excessive bruising, frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and excessive bleeding.
When patients develop a high number of leukemia cells, white blood cells aren’t able to travel freely through blood vessels, and if the blast count is high enough, red blood cells may not be able to get to tissues. This is called leukostasis, and even though it’s rare, it is a serious medical emergency that must be treated without delay. Symptoms of this condition may be similar to those associated with a stroke, and they include:
• Slurred speech
• Weakness on one side of body
• Feeling sleepy
If blood vessels in the lungs are affected, then the patient may experience shortness of breath. If the eye is affected, the patient may experience blurred vision or even blindness. If leukemia cells metastasize, other symptoms may occur. While this is rare, enlarged lymph nodes may be a symptom.
ALL/AML screening and prevention
Screening is the use of testing to identify cancers in their earliest stages. While there are no screening methods for ALL or AML, sometimes doctors find the diseases in early stages while conducting routine blood tests. If you’re showing symptoms, your doctor may conduct a physical exam to check for swelling in the abdomen or lymph nodes.
There are no proven leukemia prevention measures, but the risk of developing cancer can be reduced with certain lifestyle changes like quitting smoking. There are few lifestyle-related or external causes of leukemia, so there is little that can be done to prevent the disease, especially in children.
Currently, there are no screening measures used to look for ALL/AML cancer in patients who are exhibiting no symptoms. The reason is because there are no tests that are able to accomplish this goal. However, some doctors may prescribe certain tests to patients at very high risk of developing ALL/AML cancer. This includes:
Alternative Treatments Used for ALL/AML Cancer
If a cancer treatment falls outside of mainstream treatment, it is considered “alternative.” The goal with many alternative ALL/AML cancer treatments is to encourage the body’s self-healing potential by boosting the immune system naturally. Every person has unique cancer cells in their body that the immune system works hard to keep in check. The concept behind alternative treatment is to reinforce the body’s natural healing systems to get the ALL or AML under control.
Sometimes patients seek alternative ALL/AML treatments to support traditional treatment protocols. Some patients use alternative remedies to help alleviate the side effects of common treatments like surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Still others may seek an entirely natural approach to leukemia treatment.
Some alternative treatment methods focus on understating the nature of the cancer cells in the individual patient to ascertain what is most likely to kill them. Doctors then develop a treatment protocol based on that information. Every patient’s ALL and AML cancer is unique to their body, which explains why mainstream treatments don’t always work.
Doctors using this process will do in-depth testing on their patient’s cancer in an effort to understand how best to control it or kill it,and keep it from coming back. Whie the testing is going on, the patient’s immune system is boosted through diet, exercise, and other natural methods. Treatment for one patient may be very different than the next patient, because their cancer cells respond differently to various treatments.
Many doctors that practice alternative treatment methods view chemotherapy and radiation therapy as detrimental to the patient because it may negatively impact their ability to heal. Additionally, it may put them at higher risk of recurrence or even developing another variety of leukemia. If the chemo or radiation treatment fails to kill the patient’s cancer, it may not be possible to pursue other forms of treatment because they are in a weakened condition.
As with any cancer treatment, patients should always be aware of their options. Be sure you trust your doctor’s advice, and then get the information you need to make an informed choice. Talk to other specialists and oncologists about alternative treatments. Talk to other patients who have had success beating the disease. Talk to your family members for support and loving advice. Ultimately, the choice for ALL/AML cancer treatment is yours alone, so explore every option before you decide on any treatment protocol.
Vitamins and Supplements Used in the Treatment of ALL/AML Cancer
Vitamins and supplements often play a key role in cancer prevention, and this is true of ALL/AML cancer. Vitamin deficiencies have been linked to different varieties of cancer, yet there is still a great deal of controversy surrounding the role vitamins play when it comes to treatment. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, because multiple clinical sources recommend a healthy diet to maintain a strong immune system. Still, these same doctors abandon this philosophy in regards to cancer treatment.
Alternative treatments that focus on enhancing the body’s immune system often utilize vitamin and supplement therapies. Some of the more common vitamins used for alternative AML and ALL cancer treatments include:
Vitamin B6 – This vitamin supports the normal function of the ALL/AML glands, and also makes antibodies that help the immune system fight disease.
Vitamin C – This is another immune system booster that helps repair and regenerate tissue in the body. This is an essential process for many patients on cancer treatment protocols.
Vitamin D – Numerous studies prove that there is a link between vitamin D deficiencies and higher risk of cancer. While vitamin D is usually absorbed through the skin by exposure to natural sunlight, some people require supplements to maintain proper levels in their body. If you live in the north, you should have your vitamin D levels routinely checked to be sure you have enough in your body.
Vitamin E – This vitamin helps your body fight infection, which is a powerful tool during both traditional and alternative cancer treatment.
Vitamin A – This is yet another essential vitamin that boosts the body’s immune system while creating a barrier against infection.
Selenium – Aggressive forms of cancer like AML can overwhelm the body because they metastasize quickly, but selenium has been shown to slow down this reaction.
There are many other supplements and vitamins used during cancer treatments, and as a means of prevention. Be sure to talk to your doctor before using any vitamin or supplement to be sure it doesn’t interfere with other treatment protocols.
Natural Remedies that May Help ALL/AML Cancer
There are a number of natural remedies that ALL/AML cancer patients use either to treat the disease, minimize symptoms associated with the disease, or reduce side effects caused by cancer treatments like chemo and radiation therapy. What follows is a rundown of some natural remedies commonly used by patients suffering from ALL/AML cancer.
Massage – Massage help with pain, and it’s a powerful tool to help cancer patients relax and relieve stress.
Herbal Preparations – Extracts, teas, and tinctures can be taken orally to relieve pain or boost the body’s metabolism.
Dietary supplements – There are numerous vitamins and supplements that many patients believe help prevent cancer, and boost the body’s natural ability to combat ALL and AML.
Physical therapy – Join and muscle pain are a common side effect of leukemia treatment, and physical therapy often helps relieve this pain while building overall strength.
Hydrotherapy – Large water basins, spas, swimming pools, and even hot and cold body wraps are capable of providing leukemia patients relief from the stress and pain often associated with treatment.
Acupuncture – Many leukemia patients swear by the healing and pain relieving abilities of acupuncture. It can be especially helpful for ALL and AML patients suffering from insomnia, nausea, and hot flashes.
Counseling – There are many forms of counseling that can help with the emotional stress associated with leukemia, or assist patients in their quest to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Diet and Exercise – Eating healthy and remaining active are two of the best ways to maintain a healthy body and strong immune system,whether you’ve been diagnosedWhen patients develop a high number of leukemia cells, white blood cells aren’t able to travel freely through blood vessels, and if the blast count is high enough with cancer or not. Nutrition plays a proven role in leukemia prevention, so it’s important to eat plant-based foods with nutrients the body needs.
If you would like more information about leukemia treatment, contact a friendly staff member of the Causenta team. We are dedicated to helping you find the best way to treat your AML and ALL cancer.
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