Leukemia refers to various cancers that affect white blood cells. Life expectancy will depend on a person’s age, the type of leukemia, and other factors. 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
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.
Unlike many other cancers, doctors
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): The staging method for this subtype of leukemia is based on the type of lymphocyte and the maturity of the cells.
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): Also known as acute myeloid leukemia, doctors stage AML using the
French-American-British (FAB) system. This system accounts for the number of healthy blood cells, the size and number of leukemia cells, changes in the chromosomes of the leukemia cells, and other genetic changes. The World Health Organization (WHO) also developed a separate classification system for AML.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): In the U.S., doctors typically use the
Rai systemto stage CLL. This system mainly considers the number of lymphocytes in the blood, enlargement of the lymph nodes, spleen, or liver, and the presence of anemia or thrombocytopenia.
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): Also known as chronic myeloid leukemia, doctors stage CML based on the number of diseased cells present in blood and bone marrow tests.
The latest figures show that the 5-year survival rate for all subtypes of leukemia is
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
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A range of factors may affect a person’s chance of surviving leukemia. These include:
- 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.