Facts About AML

Understanding Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. It is also called acute myelogenous leukemia or acute myelocytic leukemia. It happens when some of your blood stem cells stop working normally. They start making immature myeloid cells, also called blasts, that turn into cancer. 

Confirming Your AML Diagnosis

To provide the right treatment for you, we will begin by checking details about your disease. Diagnosing AML involves a series of blood tests and sometimes a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. These show if you have cancer, and they give your physicians details about the cancer type and subtype.

Most of our patients begin AML treatment by going straight to the inpatient hospital at UW Medical Center - Montlake. There, they quickly receive chemotherapy. Some people come to the South Lake Union Clinic first and then go to the hospital for care.

Either way, our experts will check and confirm your leukemia type and subtype. We also look for features of your AML that matter in planning your personalized treatment.

Hematopathologists are lab experts who look at samples of your blood and bone marrow with a microscope. They can tell which subtype you have by carefully studying these tissues. At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and UW Medical Center, our hematopathologists are very experienced in identifying AML.

Subtypes and Risk Groups for AML

Your subtype and risk group help your physicians predict the outlook for your disease. They also help us design a treatment plan for you with the greatest chance for success. Different subtypes of AML affect you in different ways. They respond differently to treatments, too. Some are harder or easier to treat. Some are more or less likely to come back. 

Factors in Determining AML Subtype

Your subtype is based mainly on three factors:

  • How mature your cancer cells are
  • How similar they are to normal cells
  • If they have certain changes in chromosomes or genes

We get these details from your biopsy.

AML Subtypes

  • AML with recurrent genetic abnormalities: This subtype has many subgroups. It includes acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), an aggressive AML subtype that is treated differently from other subtypes.
  • AML with myelodysplasia-related changes
  • Therapy-related myeloid neoplasms
  • Myeloid sarcoma
  • Myeloid proliferation related to Down syndrome
  • AML, not otherwise specified: This subtype has many subgroups.

Along with subtype, your physicians will look at gene changes in your cancer cells to put your AML in a risk group: “favorable,” “intermediate” or “poor or adverse.” This tells us more about the best ways to treat your disease.

Fred Hutch physicians treat all AML subtypes and risk groups. 

Types of Treatment for AML

Today, there are more treatment options than ever before to put AML into remission. Your care team will make sure you understand each type of treatment and all your choices.

Fred Hutch has researched and treated AML for decades.


There are many resources online for learning about your disease. Health educators at the Fred Hutch Patient and Family Resource Center have compiled a list of trusted sources to help you get started.

Whether you are newly diagnosed, going through treatment or know someone with cancer, our staff are available to tailor personalized resources and answer questions about support options in the community. 

Cancer Research Organizations

Our list of online resources provides accurate health information from reliable and reputable sources, like the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society (ACS): Overview of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

If you have acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or  are a caregiver for someone who does, knowing what to expect can be helpful. Here you can find out all about AML in adults, including risk factors, symptoms and how they are found and treated.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO): Guide to Acute Myeloid Leukemia

This is Cancer.Net's Guide to AML. Here you can learn more about AML, treatment, the latest research and clinical trials. 

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS): Overview of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

If you have AML, LLS is a good place to start to better understand your diagnosis, treatment and support options.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Guidelines for Patients: Acute Myeloid Leukemia

This step-by-step guide to the latest advances in cancer care features questions to ask your physician, patient-friendly illustrations and glossaries of terms and acronyms.

Cancer Support Organizations

Our list includes local and national organizations that are dedicated to improving the quality of life for patients and family members through providing emotional support, education and community.



CancerCare: Blood Cancers Support Group

CancerCare offers an online blood cancers support group.