Leukemia: Survival Rates and Prognosis

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Leukemia is cancer that affects blood cells. There are several types and subtypes of leukemia, and each of them strikes different types of blood cells. The chance of recovering from this cancer—called your prognosis—depends greatly on the specific type of leukemia.

Understanding Your Leukemia Prognosis

People with leukemia used to have a poor prognosis. The outlook is better today because of many treatment advances. Treatment now allows many people to live a long, healthy life.

The term "survival rate" refers to how likely it is that someone will beat leukemia. Survival rates are a way of showing how long someone may live from the time of their diagnosis. Survival rates are based on data from thousands of people with the same type of leukemia

Together, survival rates and prognoses are an average. They can give a good idea of how hard it will be to treat your type of leukemia. However, it's important to remember that your specific prognosis might be different from the average. 

The acute types of leukemia tend to be more aggressive and severe. Chronic types of leukemia often progress slowly. They offer a better chance of living a long time with the disease. Your prognosis depends on the type and stage of your leukemia. Stage means how far it has grown and where in the body it is growing. Other factors, like your age, also affect your prognosis. 

Leukemia Survival Rates

A little more than 60,000 people get a leukemia diagnosis each year. Today, more than 363,000 Americans are in remission from leukemia. Their cancer is not cured, but treatment is working to keep the cancer from growing. A complete remission means there are no signs of the disease in the body.

About 24,500 people die each year from leukemia. It's the sixth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women. It ranks fifth for men.

The chance of living at least five years after diagnosis is called the five-year survival rate. That rate for leukemia is four times higher than it was in the 1960s. Today, the average five-year survival rate for all types of leukemia is 62.7%. That means about 63 of every 100 people with leukemia are likely to live at least five years after diagnosis. Many people will live much longer than five years. 

The survival rates are lowest for acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The survival rates are highest for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The rates vary depending on person's age, the type of leukemia they have, and if (and how far) the leukemia has spread at the time of diagnosis.

A child who has lived at least five years after a diagnosis of acute leukemia is probably cured. It would be rare for the child's cancer to return.

Leukemia Treatments and Reasons for Hope

It's important to remember that five-year survival rates show the results of people treated five years ago with the treatments available at that time. Leukemia treatments are constantly getting better. Your prognosis may be better than what the statistics can show.

Discuss your prognosis and survival chances with your doctor. Also discuss how your treatment options can improve them. With knowledge about your options and your doctor’s advice, you’ll be better able to make treatment decisions that are right for you personally.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Mar 2

  1. Facts and Statistics. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. https://www.lls.org/http%3A/llsorg.prod.acquia-sites.com/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-o... 

  2. Survival Rates for Childhood Leukemias. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemiainchildren/detailedguide/childhood-leukemia-survival-rates 

  3. Understanding Statistics Used to Guide Prognosis and Evaluate Treatment. American Society of Clinical Oncology. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/understanding-statistics-used-guide-progn...

  4. SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Leukemia. National Cancer Institute. http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/leuks.html and http://seer.cancer.gov/statistics/types/survival.html

  5. Understanding Leukemia. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. https://www.lls.org/sites/default/files/file_assets/understandingleukemia.pdf

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