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Statistics and outlook for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

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A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. The likely outcome with ALL depends on several things, including how advanced the leukaemia is when it is diagnosed, the type of ALL you have, and how well it responds to chemotherapy. Children tend to do better than adults.

Further down this page we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of ALL. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every section of this website They are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you’d have to speak to your own leukaemia specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wishes to read this type of information. If you don't want to read this, you can skip to the information about chemotherapy for ALL.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your leukaemia is unique. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating ALL section.
 

 

About the information on this page

This page contains some quite detailed information about the survival rates for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

Please note that there are no national statistics available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. We have pulled together the statistics presented here from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of this website. We give statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and can’t tell you what will happen in your case.

 

Cancer statistics in general

The cancer statistics section has information about different types of cancer statistics. You may find it helpful to read this before you read the information below - unless you are very familiar with medical statistics.

Remember - statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two patients are exactly alike. How well treatment works will vary from one person to another.

You should feel free to ask your doctor about your prognosis, but not even your doctor can tell you exactly what will happen. You may hear your doctor use the term 5 year survival or 10 year survival. Remember that these are just terms that doctors use. It does not mean you will only live 5 or 10 years. It relates to the number of people in research who are still alive 5 or 10 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for this long in leukaemia research studies. This is so they can compare the results of different kinds of treatment.

 

Acute leukaemia statistics in general

The outcome of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) depends on several different factors. You will need to talk this through with your own specialist. The factors include

  • Your type of leukaemia
  • How advanced it is at the time of diagnosis
  • How well it responds to chemotherapy treatment

More than 8 out of 10 people with ALL will get a remission. Remission means the leukaemia is not active and doctors cannot find any sign of it. For example, there are no leukaemia cells in your bone marrow. Your doctors may be able to get your leukaemia into remission for a long time, even if it can’t be cured completely.

If the leukaemia comes back (relapses) after treatment, it is sometimes possible to have a second remission with more chemotherapy.

The outcome also depends on whether your leukaemia developed after previous cancer treatment. This is called a secondary leukaemia - it means that you developed leukaemia after chemotherapy treatment for a previous cancer damaged your bone marrow cells. This is rare, but it can happen. Secondary leukaemia usually develops within 10 years of treatment for the first cancer.

 

Outlook for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

This section deals with adult acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. There is a separate section for statistics about acute myeloid leukaemia.

Your age when you were diagnosed plays a big part in the likely outcome. Generally, the younger you are, the more likely your treatment is to work well. This is partly because leukaemia behaves in different ways in different people. And partly because younger people are better able to cope physically with the very intensive treatments that are more likely to cure leukaemia. But specialists and researchers are working on ways of adapting the very intensive treatments so that they are also suitable for older people.

Of all adults diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), up to 4 out of 10 people (40%) will live for at least 5 years. Some of these people will be cured. But in others the ALL will come back. Unfortunately, we can’t tell in advance who has been cured and who will relapse.

 

Outlook for childhood ALL

Generally speaking, the younger you are when diagnosed with leukaemia, the better you are likely to do. Children with leukaemia tend to do much better than adults. The cure rate for children has improved dramatically over the past few decades. In the 1960s, about 1 in 10 children (10%) with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia lived for more than 5 years. For children diagnosed between 2001 and 2005, more than 8 out of 10 (88%) lived for more than 5 years.

 

Factors that affect outcome

We know that some things affect the outcome of disease. We call these prognostic factors. The prognostic factors for ALL are

  • Your age – the younger you are, the better
  • Your gender – females tend to do better than males
  • Your white cell count – if it is high, the outlook is poorer
  • The specific type of white blood cell the leukaemia affects
  • Changes in your chromosomes – doctors call these tests cytogenetics

Your outlook is poorer if you have leukaemia cells in your brain or spinal fluid when you are diagnosed. Some specific genetic abnormalities in your leukaemia cells may make your leukaemia harder to treat successfully. If it takes more than 3 or 4 weeks to get your leukaemia under control, or leukaemia cells are left after your induction chemotherapy, your leukaemia may be more difficult to treat successfully.

 

How reliable these statistics are

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. For example, the same type of leukaemia can develop at different rates in different people.

Statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had and how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. Many individual factors determine your treatment and outlook.

 

Clinical trials

Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve the outlook for people in the future. There is information about clinical trials in the trials and research section.

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Updated: 19 August 2013