Disease progression of acute myeloid leukemia

Last medical review:

Cancer cells can spread from where they start to other parts of the body. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood-forming tissue in the bone marrow, and it can develop wherever the blood travels. So acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is often widespread when it is found.

Understanding how a type of cancer usually grows and spreads helps your healthcare team plan your treatment and future care. AML cells may collect in the:

  • liver
  • spleen
  • lymph nodes
  • gums
  • skin
  • brain and spinal cord (called the central nervous system, or CNS)
  • testicles, kidneys, eyes, ears, heart or other organs (in rare cases)

Leukemia does not usually form solid tumours in the organs that it spreads to. But the buildup of abnormal cells in the organs affects them so they don't work normally.

Expert review and references

  • 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.
  • American Cancer Society. Acute Myeloid Leukemia Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Types . 2018: https://www.cancer.org/.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) . Cancer.net: Leukemia – Acute Myeloid . 2017 : https://www.cancer.net/.
  • Seiter K. Medscape Reference: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) . WebMD LLC; 2021: https://www.medscape.com/.