Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and early forms of blood cells. The prognosis (outlook and survival) of people with different types of leukemia can vary depending on many factors, such as the person’s cancer stage at diagnosis, overall health, genetic risk factors and chromosome changes, and cancer treatment. These types of cancer are also classified as either acute (meaning the cancer cells grow quickly) or chronic (the cancer cells grow more slowly), which can also affect outlook.
Survival rates are often reported as five-year survival percentages. This term refers to the percentage of people who are alive five years following their diagnosis. Thus, if a condition has a five-year survival rate of 85 percent, 85 out of 100 people would be expected to be alive five years after being diagnosed.
Achieving five-year survival does not necessarily mean a person no longer has leukemia. Although many cases of acute leukemia can be cured, the chronic types cannot. However, people with the condition can achieve remission (all signs of the cancer disappear) and have a normal life expectancy — though some may require ongoing treatment to prevent and manage relapses.
Each of the most common types of leukemia carry a different survival rate and potential outcomes. As treatments have improved over the years, many survival outcomes have improved as well.
Adults can have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) — also known as acute lymphocytic leukemia — though it occurs most commonly in children.
The five-year survival rates for children and people under 20 is 89 percent. For adults 20 and older, it’s 38 percent.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) can be broken into different subtypes, including acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).
The five-year survival rates are:
For adults, APL is one of the most curable subtypes of AML, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, with remission rates of 90 percent and cure rates of around 80 percent. Long-term survival rates are estimated to be as high as 90 percent.
Learn more about acute myeloid leukemia survival rate and outlook.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), also referred to as small lymphocytic lymphoma, is a slow-growing leukemia. CLL is the most common type of leukemia in adults and is rarely found in children. It is most often diagnosed in people over the age of 40.
Adults over the age of 20 have a five-year survival rate of 89 percent.
Read more about chronic lymphocytic leukemia survival rate and outlook.
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) — sometimes called chronic myelogenous leukemia — is a slower-growing cancer diagnosed most often in adults. Only about 2 percent of CML cases occur in children.
The five-year survival rates for CML for children and adults are both 90 percent.
The survival rate for adults is improving with new treatment options.
Read more about chronic myeloid leukemia survival rates and outlook here.
Survival numbers are getting better, and these rates may continue to improve over time as data from cancer research and clinical trials of newer treatment regimens becomes available. As you think about survival rates, keep in mind that these rates are estimates based on large groups of people. They are not predictive of your own outcomes. Your doctor can discuss your individual prognostic factors and likely survival rates with you.
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