One in 10 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) dies before treatment can be started, so an early diagnosis is essential to detect and treat the disease, Dr. Eduardo Edmundo Reynoso Gómez told Efe today.
Reynoso, director of the Center of Specialties of Hematology and Oncology (CEDEHO) affiliated to the Spanish Hospital of Mexico, said that this disease “is highly fatal”.
The hematologist and active member of the Mexican Association for the Study of Hematology explained that this condition is a cancer of the blood that develops first in the bone marrow.
“Unfortunately, patients usually reach the first level doctor, where they are prescribed antibiotics, because one of the symptoms is fever,” said the specialist.
However, he said, patients commonly come to notice bruises or blood on their gums, and “that’s when the doctor asks for a blood count and the diagnosis can be made,” he said.
This is a type of leukemia that is practically exclusive of adults and is fatal five years after diagnosis in up to 90% of those over 65 years of age.
In Mexico it is estimated that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 new cases per year.
He explained that in most cases, patients have a very bad prognosis due to two factors: age and comorbidities that occur over time.
“It is a disease that affects, mainly, people over 65 who are already affected by diabetes, hypertension or have already had a heart attack, and therefore the treatments do not have the same effectiveness,” said the specialist.
He added that usually the treatment for this condition is with chemotherapy; however, “only between 5% and 10% of cases can the disease be controlled”.
The specialist argued that this happens because the treatment is so aggressive “that people no longer tolerate it”, in addition, the elderly have “different genetic and molecular characteristics”. And that, he argued, “makes the results much lower, the possibility of controlling the disease is minimal,” he said.
Having leukemia after that age, he said, leads to an unfavorable prognosis due to low tolerance, and due to the inherent characteristics of biology of this age in older adults.
The expert explained that although there are few advances regarding the treatment for this disease, there are currently therapies that represent an alternative to improve the quality of life of people.
“This treatment inhibits the BCL-2 protein for the care of patients newly diagnosed with AML who are not eligible for intensive chemotherapy, in combination with a hypomethylating agent or in combination with low doses of cytarabine,” said the specialist.
He explained that it has been shown that 80% of patients have achieved remission of the disease and, although it is not known how long it could extend their life expectancy “we know we can give them a better quality of life,” he said.
Finally, he recalled the importance of timely diagnosis “is essential to prevent patients from arriving late when there is little that can be done for them,” he concluded. (EFEUSA) .-