Acute Myelogenous Leukemia: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood cells. In leukemia, the body makes too many of certain blood cells, especially white blood cells, and they may not work well. White blood cells are a part of the immune system, which helps protect the body from infection and disease. In AML, the white cells are not mature and are not able to help the body fight infection. The leukemia cells can crowd out the healthy blood cells and can collect in other organs, such as the spleen.

The most common treatment for AML is chemotherapy. You also may get medicines to help with some of the side effects of treatment, including nausea and tiredness.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may get medicine for nausea and vomiting if you have these side effects.
  • Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss. Drink liquid meal replacements for extra calories and protein. Try to eat your main meal early.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired. Keep doing the hobbies you enjoy as your energy allows.
  • Take steps to control your stress and workload. Learn relaxation techniques.
    • Share your feelings. Stress and tension affect our emotions. By expressing your feelings to others, you may be able to understand and cope with them.
    • Consider joining a support group. Talking about a problem with your spouse, a good friend, or other people with similar problems is a good way to reduce tension and stress.
    • Express yourself through art. Try writing, dance, art, or crafts to relieve tension. Some dance, writing, or art groups may be available just for people who have cancer.
    • Be kind to your body and mind. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and taking time to do things you enjoy can contribute to an overall feeling of balance in your life and help reduce stress.
    • Get help if you need it. Discuss your concerns with your doctor or counsellor.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids (enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water) to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • If you have not already done so, prepare an advance care plan. An advance care plan provides instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.
  • You have a fever and are very weak.
  • You have chills that you cannot stop.
  • You feel confused or others notice that you are confused.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have any unusual bleeding, such as:
    • New bruises or blood spots under the skin.
    • A nosebleed that you cannot stop.
    • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.
    • Blood in your urine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • A fever. (Do not wait to tell your doctor if you have a fever. With leukemia, an infection can develop quickly.)
    • A cough.
    • Frequent or painful urination.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your vomiting has lasted longer than 24 hours and you are not able to keep fluids down.
  • You have severe diarrhea (large, loose bowel movements every 1 or 2 hours).
  • You are much more tired than usual.
  • You feel very sad, anxious, or both.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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