Advanced Acute Myeloid Leukemia Symptoms

Health Writer
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Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a fast-growing type of blood cancer, starts in the bone marrow. Immature white blood cells grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. It advances, enters the blood quickly, and spreads to areas around the body, including the liver, spleen, central nervous system, and testicles, within months.


Flu-like symptoms

Early signs of AML can be similar to flu symptoms, such as fever, loss of appetite, easy bleeding or bruising, shortness of breath, or weakness. Because AML crowds out healthy white blood cells, which your immune system depends on, you may have frequent infections that won’t go away.


Low red blood cell counts

AML can lower your red blood cell count, causing anemia, which reduces the amount of oxygen sent to your body’s tissues and leads to fatigue, feeling cold, dizziness, headaches, and pale skin.


Low blood platelet counts

AML can also lower your platelets, which help your blood to clot. Low blood platelet counts cause you to bruise easily and bleed excessively. You may notice small, red spots on your skin, blood on your toothbrush from bleeding gums, or frequent nosebleeds. Women may have heavy or longer-than-normal menstrual periods.


High number of leukemia cells in the blood

With AML, your blood might also contain a large number of leukemia cells, which are larger than normal white blood cells, and can clog blood vessels, preventing red cells (and the oxygen they carry) from reaching your body’s tissues. Symptoms include headache, weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, confusion, and sleepiness.


Leukemia cell buildup around the body

AML may cause leukemia cells to accumulate in your bones and joints, causing pain. The cells can also build up in your spleen or liver, which causes abdominal swelling.


Brain and spinal cord involvement

When AML spreads to your central nervous system, you may experience headaches, weakness, seizures, vomiting, trouble with balance, facial numbness, and blurred vision.


Leukemia cutis—skin eruptions

In AML, the disease can also spread to the skin, appearing as purple lumps, spots, or lesions. This usually only happens after the leukemia has advanced considerably and spread throughout the body.


Swollen lymph nodes

AML rarely settles in the lymph nodes but if it does, you may notice swelling in your neck, groin, under the arms, or above the collarbone.


Testicular tumors

Rarely, males with AML can develop solid tumors in the testicles, which can be either a first sign of the disease, or a later symptom as AML spreads throughout the body.