Survival Rates and Prognosis for Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Many questions surround a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). For example, you might be thinking: “What’s my prognosis and likely survival rate?”
No two AML patients are the same, so response to treatment will be different for everyone. Your doctor will consider certain factors and do their best to make a prediction.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a sentence; it’s just a guideline that will help inform your treatment. Follow your doctor’s orders for the best rate of success.
AML is a type of leukemia that affects your bone marrow and blood. It can prevent red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets from reaching a normal and healthy maturity.
Body tissues depend on healthy red blood cells for oxygen and nutrient transport, so this type of disruption to your bone marrow and blood cell production can be detrimental. Platelets are responsible for creating blood clots to stop injuries from bleeding.
Fatigue, bleeding, and easy bruising may be symptoms of AML.
There are further subtypes of AML. Each one has its own set of survival rate statistics because it’s based on the maturity of cancer cells. The location of leukemia cells is often a determining factor.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, subtypes that include missing portions of the chromosomes five or seven may decrease survival rates. A severely dangerous subtype is acute promyelocytic leukemia, which occurs when two genes are affected.
Your Genes May Play a Role
Leukemia isn’t thought to be genetic. Having relatives with AML doesn’t mean that the disease runs in your family, per se. However, the case may be different if you have an immediate family member with AML, such as your mother or father.
Having a family member with AML may affect your prognosis. Family or personal history of myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of blood disorder, may present a prognosis that is less than favorable.
Understanding the Five-Year Survival Rate
A leukemia prognosis is often based on a “five-year survival rate.” That is, according to the number of patients who live five years or more post-diagnosis.
The University of Rochester Medical Center estimates that overall, the five-year survival rate of AML patients is about 25 percent. This rate applies to all stages of AML, including recently diagnosed patients and those who are believed to be cured.
Gender and Race
The American Cancer Society reports that men are more prone to AML, although the underlying reasons aren’t clear. Since more men than women get this type of leukemia, the disease is statistically more fatal among male patients.
Along with gender, race also can influence your odds of survival with AML. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the five-year rate of survival after a diagnosis is:
- 25 percent for black and white women
- 23 percent for black men
- 21 percent for white men
Age Influences Recovery
Age plays an important factor in cancer survival rates. For example, older patients might not have the strength to recover from treatments. The University of Rochester Medical Center reports that AML patients under the age of 60 have the best prognosis for survival.
Smokers and people over age 60 have a less-than-favorable survival rate, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Spread of Leukemia
Given the fact that AML affects the blood, it can spread quickly to other parts of the body. Failure to treat the cancer early might increase the presence of abnormal cells.
Survival rate tends to be lowest once the cancer spreads to the brain or spinal cord. AML may also spread to the skin, and even to the gums.
Don’t Let Statistics Control Your Life
An AML prognosis is ultimately based on the statistics of other patients with similar circumstances. While this helps a doctor to make a prediction about your outlook, it’s important not to take the statistics as a life sentence—either for the best, or for the worst.
Statistics can present two dangers: depending on the situation, they can give false hopes, or even underestimate your rate of survival. You shouldn’t ignore statistics altogether. Instead, take them with a grain of salt. Focus on one day at a time and follow your treatment plan to increase your longevity.
- What are the risk factors for acute myeloid leukemia? (2013, September 20). American Cancer Society. Retrieved January 24, 2014 from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-acutemyeloidaml/detailedguide/leukemia-acute-myeloid-myelogenous-risk-factors
- General information about adult acute myeloid leukemia (2013, December 26). National Cancer Institute. Retrieved January 24, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adultaml/patient
- Can I survive acute myeloid leukemia? What is my prognosis? (n.d.). University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved January 24, 2014 from http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=34&ContentID=BAMLD5