Follow-up after treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists or hematologists) and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • fatigue
  • a general feeling of discomfort or illness (called malaise)
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • bleeding or bruising
  • frequent infections

The chance of AML recurring is greatest during treatment or shortly after treatment is finished. It is unusual for AML to recur if no signs of AML are present within a few years of finishing treatment.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up after treatment for AML is based on your personal needs. It generally lasts for many years. People in remission need to be examined regularly. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled:

  • frequently, likely every few months, for several years after treatment is finished (even if there are no signs of disease)
  • more frequently, likely once or twice a week, for the first 3 months after a stem cell transplant
  • less frequently as time goes by (the time between exams will become longer but they will continue indefinitely)

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, which can include:

  • measuring vital signs for fever, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat
  • checking the skin for bruising and paleness
  • feeling areas of the neck, underarm and groin for any swollen, or enlarged, lymph nodes
  • looking in the mouth for infection, bleeding or swollen gums
  • feeling the abdomen for enlarged organs
  • checking the skeleton for tenderness or pain

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • complete blood count (CBC) to check for abnormal blood cell counts
  • blood chemistry tests to show how well certain organs are working and find problems caused by the spread of the leukemia cells
  • imaging tests, such as chest x-ray, CT scan, MRI or ultrasound to get helpful information about the spleen, liver or lymph nodes
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy to follow up after the results of the blood tests or if new symptoms develop

If a recurrence is found, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.

Find out more about these tests and procedures.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Leukemia - Acute Myeloid (Myelogenous). Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2013:
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Follow-Up Care. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; 2011.
  • Wiernik PH . Diagnosis and treatment of adult acute myeloid leukemia other than acute promyelocytic leukemia. Wiernik PH, Goldman JM, Dutcher JP & Kyle RA (eds.). Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 5th ed. Springer; 2013: 22: pp. 375-401.