Survival rates for childhood leukemias
Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some parents may want to know the survival statistics for children in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you would rather not read about the survival rates, skip to the next section, “How is childhood leukemia treated?”
The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. With acute leukemias, children who are free of the disease after 5 years are very likely to have been cured, because it very rare for these cancers to return after such a period of time. Current 5-year survival rates are based on children first diagnosed and treated more than 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for children diagnosed recently.
The 5-year survival rate for children with ALL has greatly increased over time and is now more than 85% overall.
The overall 5-year survival rate for children with AML has also increased over time, and is now in the range of 60% to 70%. However, survival rates can vary depending on the subtype of AML. For example, most studies suggest that the cure rate for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of AML, is now higher than 80%, but rates are lower for some other subtypes of AML.
Accurate survival rates for less common forms of childhood leukemia are harder to find. For juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), 5-year survival rates of about 50% have been reported.
For chronic leukemias, which are rare in children, 5-year survival rates are less helpful, because some children may live for a long time with the leukemia without actually being cured. In the past, 5-year survival rates for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) were reported to be in the range of 60% to 80%. With newer, more effective medicines developed for CML in recent years, survival rates are likely to be higher now, although these new drugs have not been in use long enough to be sure.
Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of children who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular child’s case. Knowing the type of leukemia is important in estimating a child’s outlook. But a number of other factors, including the child’s age and leukemia characteristics, can also affect outlook. Many of these factors are discussed in the section, “Prognostic factors in childhood leukemia (ALL or AML).” Even when taking these other factors into account, survival rates are at best rough estimates. Your child’s doctor is likely to be a good source as to whether these numbers may apply to your child, as he or she knows your situation best.
Last Medical Review: 10/24/2013
Last Revised: 02/03/2014