Childhood acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a form of cancer in which the bone marrow produces a large number of abnormal blood cells. AML is also referred to as acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. Cancers that are classified as acute usually get worse quickly if they are not treated, whereas cancers that are chronic generally worsen more slowly.
In AML, the myeloid stem cells usually become a type of immature white blood cell called myeloblasts (or myeloid blasts). The myeloblasts (leukemia cells) in AML are abnormal and do not become healthy white blood cells. The leukemia cells can build up in the blood and bone marrow making less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. When this happens, infection, anemia or easy bleeding may occur. The leukemia cells can spread outside the blood to other parts of the body, including the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin and gums. Sometimes leukemia cells form a solid tumor called a granulocytic sarcoma or chloroma.