Frequently Asked Questions about Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

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Is acute myeloid leukaemia hereditary?

No. Nowadays, studies in this field show that the leukaemia is an acquired condition, not hereditary.

Is acute leukaemia contagious?

No. Leukaemia is not a contagious disease. The precautionary measures taken in relation to the patient —for example, the use of a filter mask— are to prevent the patient from becoming infected with viruses/bacteria that may aggravate their health, since, as a result of chemotherapy, their defences are low and they are more vulnerable.

Do I have to stay in hospital each time I get the treatment?

This depends on the type of treatment that the medical team decides to administer in each case. Some treatments can be performed on an outpatient basis, while others require hospitalisation.

Will the treatment affect my fertility?

Yes. In most cases it can affect fertility, although not all cytotoxic drugs have the same potential. After treatment, if necessary, reproductive function can be assessed by the relevant professionals. The effect is not definitive in all cases, and there are patients who have become parents after years of treatment.

Is a bone marrow transplant inevitable?

Not all AMLs require a subsequent bone marrow transplant. This depends on several factors including age, state of health, the type of leukaemia, and earlier treatment response, as well as the availability of a compatible donor.

In the event of a bone marrow transplant, who can be a donor?

In allogeneic transplants, stem cells are obtained from a compatible healthy donor. When this is the patient’s relative —usually a sibling— they are known as a related donor; if a compatible direct relative is not available, the search for an unrelated donor should be initiated in the various international registries. In some cases, the parents or children of the patient may become a donor.

What should I do if I have a fever after chemotherapy?

You should go to the hospital inmediately. Fever is a defence mechanism that probably indicates the presence of an infection. After chemotherapy, a patient’s defences are very low and caution must be taken to avoid complications. At the hospital, after an examination to confirm the reason for the fever and the state of the patient’s defences, the medical team will determine the need to administer antibiotics and/or admit them to hospital.

Do I have to be accompanied to outpatient treatment?

Whenever possible it is recommended that the patient takes someone with them.

Can the treatment be supplemented with alternative therapies?

You should always consult your medical team about the possibility of receiving these therapies. It is a very broad term, some are discouraged while others are not contraindicated.

Can I have sex?

Sexual intercourse is possible as long as the patient’s general condition allows it. Despite the fact that the treatment reduces the chance of getting pregnant, precautions must be taken to avoid pregnancy.

How will the treatment affect me physically?

You may suffer hair loss (alopecia). This is produced by the action of different drugs on the hair follicles, which destroys them. This side effect does not always occur, as it depends on the type of medicine used. There is also the possibility that hair loss is generalised, in other words, in addition to affecting the scalp, it can affect other parts of the body, including the armpits, arms, legs, eyebrows, eyelashes, and so on. This effect is reversible. Hair tends to grow back 2 or 3 months after the end of the treatment, although sometimes the new growth may be different to how it was before. You may also notice redness (erythema), dryness, and peeling of the skin. Your nails may become dark, brittle, break easily, and have vertical bands on them. It is also typical to feel more tired during the treatment.

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Substantiated information by:

Laia Guardia Roca
Marina Díaz Beyá

Published: 8 April 2019
Updated: 8 April 2019

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