Survival Rate of Leukemia / 5-Year Prognosis

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia - 78.8% overall

  • According to the National Cancer Institute, 78.8% of patients treated for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia in 1999 lived up to or past 2005.
  • The survival rate of CLL is rather high due to the mildness of the disease. Although there is no surefire cure-all for CLL, the slowness with which the disease spreads throughout the body (CLL tumors usually remain stable with only occasional and minor metastasis) ensures a longer life span for those diagnosed with CLL.
  • Opportunistic infections are the chief cause of death for CLL patients. The leading deadly opportunistic infection is advanced peneumonia.
  • Unlike other forms of cancer, CLL's prognosis does not change significantly depending on how early the disease is discovered. This is because doctors often choose to delay treatment of CLL, in order to allow a sufficient number of cancerous lymphocytes to accumulate in the body before delivering chemotherapy.

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia - 23.4% overall

  • According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 23.4% of patients treated for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in 1999 lived up to or past 2004.
  • The survival rate of AML is incredibly low - one of the lowest survival rates for ALL forms of leukemia. This is in part due to the virulence of the disease.
  • In AML, cancerous cells accumulate in the lymphatic system and bloodstream far more rapidly than in CLL or CML. AML tumors also have a much higher risk of metastasis. As a result, the cancer spreads very rapidly throughout the body.
  • The survival rate of AML rises if it is diagnosed earlier. 35% of AML patients diagnosed in 1999 whose disease was diagnosed in the Chronic Phase lived to or past 2005. However, the survival rate falls to 11.2% if AML is discovered in its third stage.
  • Due to the rapidity with which AML spreads, doctors will NOT delay chemotherapy once the AML diagnosis has been confirmed.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia - 89% overall

  • According to a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine, approximately 90% of patients treated for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in 2001 lived up to or past 2006.
  • The survival rate of CML is very high - the highest rate of any type of leukemia and among the highest survival rates of any cancer.
  • The high survival rate of CML is due to Gleevec, a prescriptiopn oral drug approved by the FDA in 2001 that has vastly improved the prognosis for CML patients. Before Gleevec was developed, the average 5-year CML prognosis hovered around 70% for patients receiving cytarabine (a drug used in chemotherapy).
  • Due to the efficacy of Gleevec and its descendants, discovery of CML earlier or later in a patient does not significantly affect the prognosis.


Important note: The spread of leukemia occurs in three stages: Chronic Phase (5% of cells in blood or bone marrow samples are infected) Accelerated Phase (5 - 40%) and Acute Phase (>40%). Except for AML, the phase at which adult leukemia is diagnosed usually does not affect the prognosis of the patient.