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Leukemia Survival Rate and Outlook

Posted on November 15, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Todd Gersten, M.D.
Article written by
Julie Scott, ANP-BC, AOCNP

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.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Survival Rates

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 Survival Rates

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) can be broken into different subtypes, including acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).

The five-year survival rates are:

  • Children with AML — 65 percent to 70 percent
  • Children with APL — 80 percent
  • Adults with AML — 29.5 percent

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 Survival Rates

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 Survival Rates

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.

Understanding Survival Rates

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.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyLeukemiaTeam is the social network for people with leukemia and their loved ones. More than 9,500 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with leukemia.

Are you or someone you care about living with leukemia? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyLeukemiaTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Todd Gersten, M.D. is a hematologist-oncologist at the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute in Wellington, Florida. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Julie Scott, ANP-BC, AOCNP is an adult nurse practitioner with advanced practice oncology certification, based in St. Louis, Missouri. Learn more about her here.

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