Childhood Leukemia Overview

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival rates for childhood leukemia

Some parents want to know the survival rates for children with leukemia. 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 children who live at least 5 years after their cancer is found. Of course, many children live much longer than 5 years. With acute leukemias, children who are free of disease after 5 years are very likely to have been cured, as 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 mean an even better outlook for children treated today.

The 5-year survival rate for children with ALL has greatly increased over time and is now more than 85% overall.

The 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 instance, most studies suggest that the cure rate for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of AML, is now higher than 80%.

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 in the range of 60% to 80%. Since newer medicines that work better have been found 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.

Of course, the outlook for each child is different, depending on a number of things such as prognostic factors. Talk with your cancer care team if you have questions about your child’s chances of a cure. They know the situation best.

Last Medical Review: 11/11/2013
Last Revised: 02/03/2014