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The growth of cancer cells in the tissues that form blood, including the lymphatic system and bone marrow, is referred to as leukemia.

Symptoms of leukemia

Some of the signs and symptoms of leukemia are as follows:

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  • Chills and/or fever
  • Persistent infections
  • Chronic weakness and fatigue
  • Inexplicable loss of weight
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Inflamed lymph nodes, bloated spleen or liver
  • Presence of small red spots in the skin
  • Pain or tenderness of the bones
  • Night sweats

Causes of leukemia

  • The exact cause of leukemia is not known as yet. It is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible in the development of leukemia.
  • Mutations of the DNA in certain blood cells or some other abnormalities, cause these cells to grow abnormally and multiply. Unlike the normal cells, these cells do not die when their time comes and continue to divide and grow. With the passage of time, the abnormal cells outnumber the healthy cells leading to the development of different types of leukemia
  • Exposure to certain chemicals and high levels of radiation; presence of certain genetic and blood disorders; a family history of leukemia; the use of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat previous cases of other cancers and smoking increases the risk to developing leukemia

Leukemia treatment

  • Chemotherapy, wherein specific cancer killing drugs are intravenously administered
  • Radiation therapy which involves the use of intense rays of precision radiation to destroy the cancer cells
  • Biological therapy which uses special drugs to enhance the immune system to fight the leukemia cells
  • Stem cell transplant wherein the affected bone marrow is transplanted with a healthy bone marrow

Leukemia survival rate

The treatment methods for various types of cancers have progressed rapidly over the last few decades. However, medical advancement has not yet been able to offer a complete cure for leukemia, and most treatment results are based on individual patient differences such as early diagnosis, the patient’s response to leukemia treatment and the type of treatment that is given.

Even though leukemia cannot be completely overcome, the malignant effects as well as the growth of the cancer cells can be significantly limited via the present treatment methods. Most treatment methods are focused at eliminating cancerous activities at cellular levels with a minimum amount of side effects. Such treatment has caused lower rate of relapse for the disease. This has resulted in a sharp drop in the mortality rates and a considerable increase in the survival rate for leukemia patients in the last decade.

When a leukemia patient does not relapse for a period of at least five years, then it is considered as a complete cure for the condition. The survival rate for leukemia patients in the sixties was around 15 percent, whereas it has now tripled to nearly fifty percent. Patients of acute lymphocytic leukemia have a sixty percent survival rate, whereas patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia have an even higher survival rate of around seventy percent.

However, the survival rate for acute myelogenous leukemia is about 14 %, and for chronic myelogenous leukemia it is about 32 %.

Children are mostly diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and their five year survival rate is about eight percent, while the overall survival rate stands at around 45%

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