How long does leukemia last?

By  , Expert Content
Jan 11, 2012

Leukemia is cancer of the blood-forming tissue i.e. the bone marrow. It causes an increase in the formation of white blood cells. Every year, millions of people globally are diagnosed with leukemia. The disease progresses with variable rates in different individuals.

Expected Duration

Primary Leukemia: If acute leukemia is not treated, both acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) progress rapidly.The five year survival rate of acute leukemia has risen considerably in the last 40 years with advancements in its treatment. Survival rates are better for children (85%) compared with adults (50%). The survival rate of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children is about 78% whereas the five year survival rate for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML is about 50%. The five-year survival rate of adults with ALL is about 35 percent. Chronic leukemia occurs more often in older adults. The overall five-year relative CLL survival rate is about 70% and that of CML is about 50-60%.

Relapse of leukemia: A cancer that recurs (comes back) after it has been treated is known as relapse. Symptoms of relapse of leukemia after remission are similar to the primary disease. Your doctor will advise you regarding the symptoms that are suggestive of relapse (such as recurrent fever, infection or easy bleeding). After remission, monitoring for relapse is important as most types of acute leukemia can relapse. Prognosis of patients with ALL relapse is better than those with other types of leukemia. Research indicates that about 50 to 70 percent of children with ALL relapse achieve a complete second remission. The prognosis, however, is not so good for adults and rates of relapse after remission is about 40 to 50 percent in adults. Many patients with chronic leukemias respond well to treatment initially, but may eventually relapse. Patients with relapsed CLL and CML are responsive to a wide variety of treatments and may survive for many years with repeated treatment, but, over time, their remissions last for shorter intervals.



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