Surgery for Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Surgery has a very limited role in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Because leukemia cells are spread widely throughout the bone marrow and blood, it’s not possible to cure this type of cancer with surgery. Surgery rarely has any role even in the diagnosis of AML, since this can usually be done with a bone marrow aspirate and biopsy. On rare occasions, an isolated tumor of leukemia cells (known as a granulocytic sarcoma or a chloroma) may be treated with surgery.

Often before chemotherapy is about to start, a minor type of surgery is used to place a small flexible tube, called a central venous catheter (CVC) or venous access device (VAD), into a large vein in the chest. This may be done by a surgeon in the operating room, or by a special type of radiologist. The end of the tube stays just under the skin or sticks out in the chest area or upper arm. The VAD is left in place during treatment to give intravenous (IV) drugs, such as chemotherapy, and to take blood samples for tests. This lowers the number of needle sticks needed during treatment. If you have a VAD, it is very important to learn how to care for it to keep it from getting infected.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 9, 2014 Last Revised: February 22, 2016

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