by Scholten A
(AML—Child; Acute Myelogenous Leukemia—Child; Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia—Child; Acute Granulocytic Leukemia—Child; Acute Nonlymphoblastic Leukemia—Child)


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. With AML, the bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells including:

  • Myeloblasts—a type of immature white blood cell
  • Red blood cells (RBCs)—carry oxygen
  • Platelets—a blood cell that helps blood to clot

These abnormal cells crowd out the healthy cells. AML gets worse quickly. Without normal cells, anemia, bleeding problems, and infections easily develop.

White Blood Cells
White Blood Cells
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Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.

It is not clear what causes changes in the cells. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of AML in children are:


AML may cause:

  • Painless lumps in the neck, underarms, stomach, or groin
  • Red or purple spots under the skin
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Fever, tiredness, weakness, and paleness
  • Problems breathing and chest pain
  • Loss of hunger and weight loss
  • Bone or joint pain


The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will check for swelling of the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. The child may be referred to a cancer doctor.

Tests will be done to look for abnormal cells. They may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Bone marrow biopsy or aspiration—to remove and test a sample of bone marrow
  • Lumbar puncture—to test the fluid around the brain and spinal cord for cancer

The doctor may do more tests to learn about the leukemia. These tests will help guide treatment. Tests may include:

  • Cytogenetic analysis—to look for changes in white blood cells
  • Immunophenotyping—to check the type of leukemia
  • Imaging tests to check bodily structures, including:

AML is then classified into subtypes. This helps the doctor outline a treatment plan.

Bone Marrow Biopsy
Bone biopsy
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Treatment of AML is usually done in two phases:

  • Remission induction therapy—to kill leukemia cells
  • Consolidation—to kill any remaining leukemia cells that could grow and cause a relapse

Treatment may include:

  • Chemotherapy by mouth, injection, or IV—to kill cancer cells
  • External radiation therapy —targets a certain part of the body
  • Stem cell transplant—blood cells given from a donor
  • Other medicines— to kill leukemia cells, stop them from dividing, or help them mature
  • Biological therapy—helps the body fight cancer
  • Antibiotics to treat and prevent infections
  • Medicines to treat side effects


There are no current guidelines to prevent AML.


American Cancer Society 

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 


Canadian Cancer Society 

Provincial Health Services Authority 


Acute myeloid leukemia. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2021.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed March 23, 2021.

Elgarten CW, Aplenc R. Pediatric acute myeloid leukemia: updates on biology, risk stratification, and therapy. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2020;32(1):57-66.

General information about childhood acute myeloid leukemia and other myeloid malignancies. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2021.

Leukemia in children. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2021.

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