Questions to Ask When Starting a New Treatment for AML

What to ask your acute myeloid leukemia (AML) care team about your diagnosis, treatment options, and accessing support.

Your best source of information will be your healthcare providers—your oncologists, nurses, social workers, and other specialists on your team.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer that begins in the bone marrow and affects the production of blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Like any cancer diagnosis, a diagnosis of AML can feel overwhelming. AML is a complex disease, and people who are diagnosed with AML and their loved ones must absorb a lot of information–about diagnostic tests and the results of those tests, about the cancer’s subtype, about the treatment options and how treatment works.

Your best source of information will be your healthcare providers—your oncologists, nurses, social workers, and other specialists on your team. Treatment for AML is typically overseen by a hematologist-oncologist, a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of blood cancers.

Acute types of leukemia progress quickly, and in most cases, a person with AML will want to begin treatment as soon as possible. Below are essential questions to ask your healthcare providers when you are starting a new treatment or a new phase of treatment for AML.

What subtype of AML do I have?

AML can be categorized into specific subtypes based on characteristics like genetic mutations, the presence of certain proteins on the surface of cancer cells, and the appearance of the cancer cells. Identifying the subtype of AML is a crucial piece of information because it can help your healthcare team determine what treatments are likely to be effective.

What treatment do you recommend?

Treatment will depend on the subtype of AML a person has, plus other factors—the results of other tests, their age and overall health, the phase of treatment, and previous treatments that have been used. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies, and stem cell transplants are all used in the treatment of AML, but treatment will be different from person to person.

Ask these questions every time you are beginning a new therapy:

  • How does this treatment work and why is it recommended for this subtype of AML?
  • How is the medication administered? For example, some medications are given with an infusion (IV) and others are taken as pills.
  • What is the dosing schedule?
  • How long will this treatment last?
  • What happens after this part of treatment concludes?
  • What will life be like while taking this treatment? How will it impact your ability to work, to do everyday tasks, to eat and take care of yourself?
  • What does this treatment cost?
  • What are your options if this treatment doesn’t work?

Always know the name and dosage of every medication you are prescribed.

What are the possible side effects?

Cancer treatments cause side effects, and it’s important to discuss side effects before starting treatment. Ask your healthcare providers:

  • What side effects are common with this treatment?
  • Is there a risk of serious side effects?
  • What can be done to reduce or manage side effects?
  • What changes—in symptoms, in how you feel—should you watch for? When should you contact your healthcare providers? When should you seek emergency care?

What resources are available?

Living with cancer is challenging. Some of the challenges are emotional—like coping with feelings of stress, sadness, anger, or frustration. Other challenges are practical—like needing a ride to a chemotherapy appointment or needing help reducing the cost of treatment. Talk to your healthcare providers about what you need from treatment and the resources that can help, such as working with an oncology social worker or participating in a support group.

Article sources open article sources

National Cancer Institute. Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment (PDQ)–Patient Version.
American Cancer Society. What Is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)?
American Cancer Society. Tests for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Anusha Vakiti and Prerna Mewawalla. Acute Myeloid Leukemia. StatPearls. August 15, 2022.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Acute Myeloid Leukemia: AML Subtypes.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Your Treatment Team.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Who's Who on Your Healthcare Team.
MedlinePlus. Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
American Cancer Society. Typical Treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (Except APL).
UpToDate. Patient education: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treatment in adults (Beyond the Basics).
NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Cancer subtype.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Acute Myeloid Leukemia in Adults.
American Cancer Society. Questions to Ask About Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
American Cancer Society. Psychosocial Support Options for People with Cancer.

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