Life expectancy for leukemia can depend on a person’s age, the type of leukemia, and other factors. While leukemia is currently not curable, it is possible to treat the cancer to help improve outlook.

For children with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), the 5-year survival rate is now around 90%, according to the American Cancer Society. For other types, however, the chance of living 5 years or more with leukemia may be lower.

There are many different types of leukemia. Which type a person develops depends on which white blood cells are affected, as well as some other factors. Leukemia can prevent white blood cells from fighting infections and cause them to multiply uncontrollably. This overgrowth can cause overcrowding of the healthy blood cells, leading to severe problems throughout the body.

Leukemia can either be acute or chronic. Acute describes when white blood cells are less mature, develop quickly, and become dysfunctional cells known as blasts. Chronic refers to when the white blood cells develop slower, which can result in symptoms not being noticeable for many years.

This article discusses the survival rate of leukemia, including factors that may impact the rate.

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Unlike many other cancers, doctors do not use standard staging methods, such as the TNM system, to stage leukemia. Instead, a doctor will first determine the subtype of leukemia through diagnostic tests and then use a unique system for each subtype. The staging is as follows:

The latest figures show that the 5-year survival rate for all subtypes of leukemia is 65.7%. A 5-year survival rate looks at how many people are still alive 5 years after their diagnosis.

Leukemia is most common in older adults, with incidence rates rising sharply from around 55 years. In the United Kingdom, between 2016–2018, roughly 4 in 10 new cases were in individuals aged 75 and over. The highest rates occur in people in the 85–89 age group.

It is also one of the most common cancers for people under age 20. The survival rate is higher for younger people.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the percentage of deaths by age group are as follows:

Age group% of deaths
Under 202.0

A range of factors may affect a person’s chance of surviving leukemia. These include:

  • age
  • time of diagnosis
  • progression and spread of the cancer
  • type of leukemia
  • a family history of blood conditions and leukemia
  • the extent of bone damage
  • exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene and some petrochemicals
  • exposure to certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • chromosome mutations
  • the body’s response to treatment
  • blood cell count
  • tobacco use

While there is currently no cure for leukemia, it is possible to treat the cancer to prevent it from coming back.

Treatment success depends on a range of factors. Treatment can include:

Treatment can last several months or even years, depending on the type and severity of the condition.

Receiving a leukemia diagnosis is life changing and challenging for both an individual and their loved ones.

It is common to feel a mixture of emotions after a cancer diagnosis, but everybody reacts differently in these situations. Some may try to put on a brave appearance to protect their loved ones, while others will openly seek support.

It is essential to remember that support is available for everyone from a wide range of sources, including:

  • Oncology care team: Asking questions about leukemia, its symptoms, treatment options, stages, and survival rates can help a person understand their condition.
  • Friends and family: Friends and family can provide intimate and emotional support. They can also help a person with everyday tasks that may become too difficult due to leukemia symptoms or treatment.
  • Support groups: These groups are helpful for people to meet others who can offer advice and support from their own lived experience or expertise. Support groups exist for both people with leukemia and their loved ones.
  • Charities: Organizations, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, are dedicated to providing support to people with a cancer diagnosis.

There may also be local charities and online resources that can help a person understand and manage their condition.

The following are commonly asked questions about leukemia survival rates.

Can leukemia survivors live long?

Those with leukemia can achieve long-term remission. This means that the treatment has removed most of the cancer cells from the body, and they have no sign of the disease.

It is not possible to predict how long a person will live after achieving remission. There is also a chance that the cancer might return.

Can a person fully recover from leukemia?

A person with leukemia can achieve long-term remission. There are also treatment options to help prevent it from returning.

Can you live 20 years with ALL leukemia?

It is possible for a person who achieves complete remission from ALL leukemia to live for 20 years. The Canadian Cancer Society notes that 40–50% of people with ALL achieve complete remission and do not relapse.

How long does it take to recover from leukemia fully?

Treatment for ALL usually takes between 2–3 years.

Is leukemia cancer curable?

Those with leukemia can achieve remission. A healthcare professional may say a person is cured if the cancer does not return after 5 years of remission. However, cancer cells may remain in the body.

Cure means that there are no traces of your cancer after treatment, and the cancer will never come back.

What are the five stages of leukemia?

The stages of leukemia can vary depending on the type.

Learn more about the stages of leukemia.

Which type of leukemia is most fatal?

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is the most aggressive type of leukemia.