Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)

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Glossary

Allogeneic transplant
Transplant using someone else’s cells. For some diseases, patients cannot use their own stem cells for a transplant. To have a chance at recovery, they need stem cells donated by someone else who is healthy. The cells may come from someone related to the patient or someone unrelated.

Attending physician
The doctor who directs your treatment. This doctor has the primary responsibility for treatment.

Autologous transplant
Transplant using the recipient’s own cells. For some diseases, doctors can remove stem cells from a patient and then put these cells back into the patient after he or she undergoes conditioning (receiving chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both). Patients having an autologous transplant do not need a donor; they are their own donor, in a sense.

Benign
A benign tumor is a growth that is not cancerous. A malignant tumor is cancer.

Biopsy
Procedure to remove a small amount of tissue from the body to examine it and tell whether there is disease. Common types of biopsies include removing tissue by surgery or removing fluid using a syringe.

Bone marrow transplant
A procedure designed to weaken or destroy tissues or cells that cause blood or immune-system diseases, and then to “reset” or replace those tissues or cells to restore healthy function.

Bone scan
An imaging technique that looks for abnormalities in your bones. It can focus on a particular joint or bone, but in cancer diagnosis it is more usual to scan a patient’s whole body. The scan involves injecting into your bloodstream a small amount of a radioactive substance called radionuclide. Aside from the injection, the procedure is painless. It uses a gamma camera that picks up radioactivity where it collects in your bones. These areas are called “hot spots” and can indicate bone cancer or a number of other conditions such as arthritis.

Chemotherapy
Using high-potency drugs that target quickly dividing cells and destroy them. Some of the healthy cells (such as hair follicles, cells in the lining of the mouth and intestines, and normal bone marrow stem cells) are also quickly dividing cells, so they are killed as well. Their destruction results in some of the side effects patients experience.

Computed tomography (CT) scan
An X-ray procedure, usually called a CT scan (“cat” scan). It takes a lot of pictures as it rotates around you and shows detailed cross-sectional pictures of the body. Your doctor will have pictures of many slices of the part of your body under study.

Conditioning
To treat blood or immune system diseases using a transplant, doctors first give the patient chemotherapy, radiation or both. This process is called conditioning.

Fellow
A doctor who has completed medical school and specialty training, such as in pediatrics, and who is training in a subspecialty, such as pediatric oncology.

Gallium scan
An imaging technique that helps doctors locate areas of tumor cells or white blood cells. First you receive an injection of radioactive gallium. After a few days, the gallium travels through your body and tends to collect in areas of cancer activity or inflammation. Then you return for the scan, which may involve taking pictures from more than one angle or scanning your whole body.

Hematology
The study of blood and the tissues that form blood.

Hematopoietic
Related to the formation of blood cells. Blood-forming stem cells are sometimes called hematopoietic cells.

Infusion
Putting a fluid other than blood into a vein. Examples of infusions are saline solution and chemotherapy drugs.

Intravenous (IV) 
Into a vein.

Leukemia
A cancer that disrupts the normal development of blood cells. Inside most of your bones is a soft spongy material called bone marrow in which blood stem cells (immature blood cells) are produced. A blood stem cell becomes one of two types of stem cells: myeloid or lymphoid, each of which matures into different kinds of blood cells.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
An imaging technique that uses radio waves and strong magnets instead of X-rays. Energy from the radio waves is absorbed by the body and then released in a pattern formed by the type of tissue and by certain diseases, such as cancer. A computer translates this pattern given off by the tissues into a very detailed image of designated parts of the body. The MRI shows a cross-sectional slice of the body (like a CT scanner) and lengthwise slices as well.

Malignant
A malignant tumor is cancer. A benign tumor is a growth that is not cancerous.

MIBG scan
An imaging technique that uses a radioactive material called MIBG. The patient receives an injection of a very small amount of MIBG, similar to the amount of radiation in an X-ray. Then a large camera is used to take pictures of structures inside the patient’s body.

Mini-transplant or mixed chimerism transplant
In patients who get low-dose conditioning before a transplant, engraftment means a new immune system develops alongside your remaining, but weakened, immune system. So for a time, you have a mixed immune system. The goal is for your new (transplanted) immune system to attack cancer cells that survived conditioning (called the graft-versus-tumor effect) and for the new immune system to eventually take over completely. This is called a mixed chimerism transplant or a mini-transplant.

Mucositis
Inflammation of the oral mucosa (lining of the inside of the mouth) with painful ulcerations and sores.

Neurofibromatosis
A genetic disease in which tumors grow along nerves (and sometimes other tissues) and which may cause abnormal development, such as learning disabilities.

Nurse practitioner
A registered nurse with advanced training in a specialized area. 

Oncology
The study of cancer.

Physician assistant
Person who helps with a variety of tasks, such as taking a medical history, performing an exam and ordering tests.

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
An imaging technique that uses glucose (a form of sugar) containing a radioactive atom. A small amount is injected into your arm. While you lie in a PET machine, a special camera detects the radioactivity in any part of your body. Cancer cells generally absorb large amounts of the radioactive sugar. The PET scan will help your healthcare team find any places in your body where cancer may have spread.

Recurrence
New episode of a type of cancer you have had in the past that comes after your cancer has been treated.

Remission
Period when there are no signs or symptoms of disease.

Ultrasound
An imaging technique that uses sound waves to detect structures within the body. The findings of the sound waves are translated into a picture.