Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Survival Rates

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia survival rates explained

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Depending on your genetics and environment, there are hundreds of cancers someone can possibly develop during their lifetime. One of the most devastating cancers doctors fight today is known as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Continue reading to understand chronic lymphocytic leukemia survival rates.

This exceptionally lethal form of leukemia can survive anywhere from 6 years to 25 years on average. Genetics plays a large role in the survival rates of those diagnoses, but receiving the right medical care makes a much greater difference.

What is chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Leukemia is a form of cancer involving white blood cells. The most common form of leukemia is lymphocytic leukemia. As the name implies, it primarily affects the lymphocytes, special cells used to fight infection.

Over the course of years, abnormal growth of lymphocytes prevents the immune system from functioning properly. After the patient's immune system is compromised enough, they are no longer able to fight off infections. Opportunistic diseases such as colitis may lead to death.

The genetic factors involved in survival

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia survival rates: is very sensitive to genetic influence. If you have the right DNA, you can prolong your life and avoid some of the more severe complications. The most prominent example of genetic differences influencing lymphocytic leukemia is seen with immunoglobulin. People with particular mutations in the immunoglobulin gene have markedly higher rates of this form of cancer.

Chromosome structures play a major role in the development of this disease. Specifically, chromosomes 11, 12, and 17 are known to produce many of the most important variations in chronic lymphocytic leukemia survival rates. These chromosomes carry many of the genes responsible for our immune system, so they naturally influence leukemia. For example, trisomy of chromosome 12 is found in 25% of all lymphocytic leukemia patients. Chromosome 12 trisomy generally produces an intermediate prognosis among patients.

Treatment options available for patients

Research into cancer has created effective treatments patients may use to combat this disease. There are treatment options involving everything from chemotherapy to bone marrow transplants. Depending on the method used a patient may actually live symptom-free indefinitely.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common methods for treating lymphocytic leukemia, but it has many side effects. Patients often find they experience weight loss, loss of hair, and further compromising of their immune system. A more effective therapy focuses on targeting cancer cells specifically.

This avoids many of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy by leaving healthy cells intact. However, it isn't perfect and can often attack healthy tissue as well.

The potential for stem cells

Stem cell therapy is a relatively new technology, but it has the potentially to greatly increase the survival rate of chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients. Unlike chemotherapy, stem cell therapy doesn't require the use of dangerous drugs to fight cancer cells. It uses the body's natural healing process to take on cancer.

Typically, stem cells are not derived from the patient. Instead, the stem cells are taken from a healthy person in order to replace the bone marrow of the individual. The new bone marrow eventually produces healthy lymphocytes to replace the patient's cancerous tissues. Some people have extended their lives indefinitely thanks to this method.

While stem cell therapy offers a possible solution for many patients, it is far from perfect. Introducing foreign stem cells may cause a negative reaction in a patient. The majority of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia are elderly and do not respond well to stem cell therapy. Important research into better methods of stem cell introduction are needed to keep this going.

Prognosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia survival rates

The prognosis for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia is highly variable. Some fortunate patients can live decades with the disease thanks to their genetics, but even patients who do not have this luck are living longer lives thanks to medication.

As medicine advances, we'll see the introduction of more efficient treatments into the market. These will give patients options they currently do not have and possibly grant them a life free from any signs of this disease.

Last Reviewed:
July 25, 2017
Last Updated:
October 25, 2017
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