Follow-up after treatment for acute myeloid leukemia

Last medical review:

Follow-up care lets your healthcare team keep track of your health for a period of time after treatment ends. Follow-up for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an important part of cancer care and is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists or hematologists) and your family doctor. They will help you recover from treatment side effects and monitor you for any signs that the cancer has come back (recurred).

Follow-up care may not seem that important to you, especially if your treatment was long or very hard. You may find the idea of follow-up care stressful because it reminds you of your cancer experience or because you are worried about what a test might reveal. Talk to your healthcare team about how you feel and about why follow-up matters. Your healthcare team is there to help.

Schedule for follow-up visits

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 that AML will come back (recur) is greatest during treatment or shortly after treatment is finished. It is unusual for AML to recur if there are no signs of AML within a few years of finishing treatment.

Follow-up visits or tests for AML are usually scheduled:

  • frequently, likely every 1 to 2 months, for 2 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, likely every 3 to 6 months, for up to 5 years

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, including:

  • 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:

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss your treatment and care.

Find out more about follow-up

The following are questions that you can ask the healthcare team about follow-up after treatment for cancer. Choose the questions that fit your situation and add questions of your own. You may find it helpful to take the list to the next appointment and to write down the answers.

  • What is the schedule for follow-up visits?
  • How often is follow-up scheduled with the cancer specialist?
  • Who is responsible for follow-up visits?
  • What will happen at a follow-up visit?
  • What tests are done on a regular basis? How often are they done?
  • Are there any symptoms that should be reported right away? Who do I call?
  • Who can help me cope with long-term side effects of treatment?

Expert review and references

  • Robert Turner, MD, FRCPC
  • John Storring, MD, CM
  • American Cancer Society. After Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment . 2018: https://www.cancer.org/.
  • Alberta Health Services. Clinical Practice Guideline: Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Edmonton: 2019: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Acute Myeloid Leukemia. 2020.
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The AML Guide: Information for Patients and Caregivers. Rye Brook, NY: 2019: https://www.lls.org/.