​Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia is a rapidly spreading cancer of the blood in which a type of white blood cells, that are responsible for the development of normal blood cells and platelets, are not able to grow fully. As a result, healthy blood cells give way to these abnormal cells, leading to the spread of this tumour.

No definite cause of acute myeloid leukemia is known, though it is suspected that exposure to radiation, chemotherapy, or certain chemicals may lead to the mutation in the development of these cells.

Risk factors typically associated with acute myeloid leukemia include:

  • Being 65 years old or above

  • Being a male

  • Having been previously treated for cancer and consequently exposed to radiation or chemotherapy

  • Other instances of exposure to radiation or chemical substances

  • Blood or genetic disorders

  • Smoking

If you believe you may be suffering from acute myeloid leukemia, you may report of the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding or bruising

  • Fever

  • Recurrent infections

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Ache in bones and joints

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Sweating at night

If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms that are persistent and present themselves for beyond two weeks, consult a doctor working with the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

In the attempts to diagnose acute myeloid leukemia, the following tests may be performed:

  • Blood test – this test can help to reveal the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It also shows the amount of haemoglobin in your red blood cells, as well as the concentration of red blood cells.

  • Bone marrow biopsy – a needle is used to extract sample of your bone marrow (usually from the hip bone), for scrutiny in the laboratory

  • Spinal tap or lumbar puncture –  the fluid from around your spinal cord is extracted using a hollow needle to test for leukemia cells

The treatment for acute myeloid leukemia is determined based on your age, overall health, extent of the disease as well as the type of acute myeloid leukemia you have been diagnosed with. Normally, the treatment falls into two stages: Stage one in which the leukemia cells in your blood and bone marrow are killed; and stage two in which further treatment eliminates any remaining cancer cells as well as prevents a relapse. Common treatments for acute myeloid leukemia are:

  • Chemotherapy – this describes the use of anti-cancer drugs which are either taken orally or injected directly into your bloodstream, to destroy or control cancer cells. The drug is able to travel along your bloodstream to nearly all the areas of your body.  

  • Radiation therapy – this form of treatment used powerful energy sources, such as X-rays, in order to eliminate cancer cells.

  • Stem cell transplant – where abnormal cells in your bone marrow are replaced with healthy cell to restore the cycle of healthy blood cells development. This is done after initially killing existing cancerous cells using chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.