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Survival

Find out about survival for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Survival depends on many different factors. It depends on your individual condition, type of cancer, treatment and level of fitness. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. 

These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival by stage

No UK-wide statistics are available for the different stages of CLL. The statistics below are published in the European Clinical Practice Guidelines for CLL. They are for median survival. This is the length of time from diagnosis to the point at which half of the patients are still alive.

CLL has 3 stages, called stage A, B and C.  A is the earliest stage, and C is the most advanced stage. In:

  • stage A, the median survival is more than 10 years
  • stage B, the median survival is more than 8 years
  • stage C, the median survival is around 6½ years

Survival for all stages of CLL

No UK-wide statistics are available for CLL survival.

Statistics are available for CLL diagnosed in England between 2008 and 2010. They are from the National Cancer Intelligence Network. 

Generally for people with CLL:

  • around 70 out of 100 men (around 70%) and almost 75 out of every 100 women (almost 75%) will survive their leukaemia for 5 years or more after being diagnosed.

This is for all ages. Younger people tend to do better than older people:

  • for those aged between 15 and 64, more than 80 out of 100 (more than 80%) will survive their leukaemia for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • for those who are 65 or older, more than 60 out of 100 (more than 60%) will survive their leukaemia for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

Although CLL is not usually curable, it often develops very slowly and treatment can keep it under control for many years. 

The time when the leukaemia is controlled by treatment and is not active is called remission. Remission means that you don't have symptoms and the CLL doesn't show up in your blood samples. CLL is likely to come back again, some time after your first lot of treatment. But it can then be possible to get it into a second remission, with more chemotherapy or other treatment.

What affects CLL survival

Your outlook depends on the stage of your CLL. This means how advanced it is when it is diagnosed. 

If you have abnormal white blood cells (lymphocytes) spread throughout the bone marrow, you have a worse outlook. Your outlook is also affected by how quickly your lymphocyte count increases. 

Your sex affects outlook. Women have a better prognosis than men. 

Survival is affected by changes in your chromosomes or genes. Tests called cytogenetics look for these changes. Some specific genetic abnormalities in your leukaemia cells may make your leukaemia harder to treat successfully. 

About these statistics

The term 5 year survival doesn't mean you will only live for 5 years. It relates to the number of people who live 5 years or more after their diagnosis of leukaemia. Many people live much longer than 5 years.

More information

Last reviewed: 
16 Nov 2017
  • Investigation and management of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia
    British Society for Haematology guidelines 2012

  • Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

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