Survival Rates for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a way of discussing a person’s outlook. 

Survival rates tell you what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain length of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. These numbers can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 90% means that an estimated 90 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed.

Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare people with cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type and stage of cancer is 90%, it means that people who have that cancer are, on average, about 90% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

But remember, survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • The statistics below are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. In the case of Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia, the "stage" is called a prognostic score. The statistics do not apply to cancers that come back later or spread, for example.
  • Besides the cancer stage or prognostic score, many other factors can affect a person's outlook, such as age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment.

Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your particular situation.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database (based on people diagnosed between 2001 and 2010), the overall relative 5-year survival of people with WM is about 78%.

The group that created the International Prognostic Scoring System for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia (ISSWM) used data from about 600 patients with WM who were diagnosed and treated before January 2002 to develop their risk groups:

ISSWM
risk group

5-year survival rate

Low

87%

Intermediate

68%

High

36%

Median survival

Median survival is another way to look at survival. It is the length of time at which half of the patients in a group are still alive, and half have died. By definition, half of the patients live longer than the median survival. The group that developed the ISSWM used data from WM patients diagnosed and treated before January 2002 and found the following:

ISSWM
risk group

Median survival*

Low

12 years

Intermediate

8 years

High

3.5 years

*Median survival is measured from the point that treatment is started.

In the last decade (2001-2010), the median overall survival for all WM groups has improved to just over 8 years compared to 6 years in the previous decade (1991-2000).

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Castillo, J. J., Olszewski, A. J., Kanan, S. , Meid, K. , Hunter, Z. R. and Treon, S. P. (2015), Overall survival and competing risks of death in patients with Waldenström macroglobulinaemia: an analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database. Br J Haematol, 169: 81-89. doi:10.1111/bjh.13264

Morel P, Duhamel A, Gobbi P, et al. International prognostic scoring system for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. Blood. 2009;113:4163–4170.

Sekhar J, Sanfilippo K, Zhang Q, et al. Waldenström macroglobulinemia: A Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database review from 1988 to 2005. Leuk Lymphoma. 2012;53:1625–1626.

Last Medical Review: July 19, 2018 Last Revised: October 17, 2018

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