What happens after treatment for acute myeloid leukemia?
For some people with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), treatment can destroy the leukemia cells. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about the leukemia coming back. (When leukemia comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.
It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many leukemia survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives. See Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence for more about this.
For other people, the leukemia may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy or other therapies to try to help keep the leukemia under control and help relieve symptoms from it. Learning to live with leukemia that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. See When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away for more about this.
Treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) can continue for months or years. Even after treatment ends, you will need frequent follow-up exams – probably every few months for several years. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctor will ask about any symptoms, examine you, and get blood tests or bone marrow exams. Follow-up is needed to check for cancer recurrence, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for only a short time, but others can last the rest of your life. Tell your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and about any concerns you have.
If the leukemia does come back, it is usually while the patient is still being treated or shortly after they have finished chemotherapy. If this happens, treatment would be as described in “What if the leukemia doesn’t respond or comes back after treatment?” It is unusual for AML to return if there are still no signs of the disease within a few years after treatment.
It is also very important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.
Should your cancer come back, see When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence for information on how to manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your treatment, you may be seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know anything about your medical history. It’s important to be able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy (and always keep copies for yourself):
- A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
- If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home
- If you had radiation therapy, a copy of the treatment summary
- If you had chemotherapy or other medicines, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- The names and contact information of the doctors who treated your cancer
Last Medical Review: 12/09/2014
Last Revised: 02/22/2016