Dr. Elizabeth Bowhay-Carnes provides advice on key genetic tests that should take place after an AML diagnosis and how they can inform your treatment options. Download the Find Your Voice Resource Guide here.
Dr. Elizabeth Bowhay–Carnes is Director of the Adult Non-Malignant Hematology Program and Co-Director of the Adolescent/Young Adult Oncology Program at Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. More about this expert.
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When a patient is first diagnosed with AML, or Acute Myeloid Leukemia, that test comes back initially as a test called flow cytometry, and that is really just one of the very first initial tests that is needed in the workup.
AML does not have traditional staging, as solid tumors have. There’s no such thing as a stage one, two, three, four. Instead, AML is divided into different risk categories. We call those low-risk, intermediate-risk, or high-risk, or sometimes we use the term standard-risk, intermediate-risk, high-risk.
And that information is determined from some specialty tests that we call cytogenetics. Sometimes we use the term molecular testing or next-generation sequencing. Those three different terms, cytogenetics, molecular, next generation sequencing, are all specialty lab tests that help us determine what risk category group does a patient fall in.
So, when a patient is first diagnosed with AML, that is very important to establish the initial diagnosis, but there’s those important follow-up tests that are done over the following weeks of treatment, from diagnosis at the beginning of treatment, that determine what a patient’s risk categories are. That information is very important because when we talk about initial treatment, a lot of the time that initial treatment is the same for all patients.
But then, there are other medications that can be added on, or different steps in the treatment process, that vary based on a patient’s individual risk category and risk characteristic.