In most cases of
leukemia, there are too many abnormal
white blood cells. These leukemia cells crowd out the
normal blood cells in your
bone marrow and build up in your
lymph nodes, liver, and
spleen. This makes it hard for your body to fight
Your white blood cells help your body fight
red blood cells make sure all your body parts have the
oxygen they need. Your
platelets keep you from bleeding too much. When the
leukemia cells crowd out your normal cells, your blood cannot do its job. You
may bleed or bruise easily, have more infections, and feel very tired.
Chemotherapy or radiation that is used to treat other cancers, such as
breast cancer or
Hodgkin's lymphoma, can sometimes cause leukemia
months or years later.2 (This is rare.)
Survival rates are different for different kinds of leukemia. A 5-year
survival rate is the percentage of people who are still alive 5 years or more
after being diagnosed. But keep in mind that everyone is different. These
numbers do not necessarily show what will happen in your case. Researchers are
continuing to develop new and better treatments for leukemia. The 5-year
survival rates are:
acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), as low as 5% to 10%
for older people who have worse types of AML or as high as 75% for young
people. Your survival rate will depend upon your age, overall health, and the
type of AML.
chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), about 75%,
depending on your age, overall health, and other factors.3
chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in people who
receive a bone marrow transplant, over 70%. (This applies to people age 50 or
younger who are treated in the first year after diagnosis. Transplants are not
as successful for older people or for people who have had CML for more than a
- For CML in newly diagnosed
people taking imatinib (Gleevec), over 85%.5
The leukemia-free period for
acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) depends on age. In
general, children are more likely than adults to have a long leukemia-free
period with treatment.
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