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What Factors Affect Leukemia Life Expectancy?

Samples of blood from a healthy person and from one with leukemia, a type of blood cancer.
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  • Written By: Marlene de Wilde
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2014
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Leukemia life expectancy depends on the type of leukemia, the severity of the condition, and the age of the patient at the time of diagnosis. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells, and there are many kinds according to which type of white blood cells are affected. Children suffering from certain forms of leukemia have a better life expectancy in general than adults, but only if treatment is given.

There are two types of leukemia: chronic, in which the older, more mature abnormal cells accumulate and become too many; and acute leukemias, where young cells divide rapidly and frequently, inhibiting the normal development of all blood cells. Acute leukemia can be fatal within a very short time unless an aggressive treatment program is started. The progress of the disease is rapid as the immature blood cells accumulate and spread through the body quickly. Some types of acute leukemia are common in children. Leukemia life expectancy for acute forms usually ranges from a few months to a few years.

Chronic leukemia may be undetected in the body for many years. The progress of the disease is slower, and often treatment does not need to begin immediately; rather, the disease is monitored until the right therapy is judged to be necessary. Life expectancy for this kind of leukemia may be 10 years, 20 years or even longer.

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Leukemia life expectancy also depends on the type of blood cells affected by the cancer. There are two groups of leukemia: lymphocytic and myelogenous, which are further divided into sub-groups, each with differing survival rates. Generally, though, leukemia is considered one of the most fatal cancers, with low life expectancy and an average survival rate of 43% over five years.

Lymphocytic leukemia is produced in the bone marrow when abnormal and immature lymphocytes take the place of healthy cells. Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is common in young children and may also affect adults in their late 60s and over. More children than adults survive the disease, with the figures being about 85% for the former and 50% for the latter. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) does not occur in young children but may be found in teenagers. It usually affects adults after the age of 55. About 75% of sufferers will survive the disease for five years.

Myelogenous or myeloid leukemia originates from the marrow cells that develop into red blood cells. Again, leukemia life expectancy depends on whether the condition is acute or chronic. Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) commonly affects men, and there is a 40% rate of survival over five years. Chronic myelogenous leukemia has the highest survival rate, at 90% after five years.

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