Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Life Expectancy

New therapies increase chronic myelogenous leukemia life expectancy

Being diagnosed with leukemia is frightening for any patient. This is especially true for those diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Unlike other types of Leukemia, this slow forming type of bone marrow cancer can be present in the human body for a long time before any symptoms become apparent. So, what is the chronic myelogenous leukemia life expectancy?

In fact, many people diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia are never even aware that they are sick. Some people never experience symptoms in the early stages or attribute symptoms such as fatigue to other causes. Because of this, this type of bone marrow cancer is typically caught and diagnosed during routine checkups at the doctor's office.

This means that the cancer can spread unchecked throughout the body for a long period of time. However, the chronic form of this type of leukemia is only the first stage of this cancer, and when caught at this early stage, the prognosis for patients battling this disease is an optimistic one.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia life expectancy

Chronic myelogenous leukemia life expectancy rates hinge on several different factors. These factors include receiving treatments that are effective, how well the patient responds to those treatments, whether or not the patient remains in the initial chronic stage, the patient's general health, if the spleen is enlarged, and how much damage has been done to the patient's bones.

When a patient remains in the chronic stage, receives treatments that are effective, and responds well to those treatments, life expectancy rates can be as high as 83% over a five-year period after treatment has begun.

Patients who leave the chronic stage and enter the second or third stage (accelerated and blastic stages) do not have survival rates that are as optimistic. The blastic stage, for example, is the final and most aggressive stage of this type of cancer. The survival rates of patients in the second and third stages vary widely and are not typically as favorable as those of patients who remain in the chronic stage.

Survival rates of chronic myelogenous leukemia

The best survival rates are for patients who remain in the chronic phase of this disease. This initial stage is the most manageable and has the best response to all available treatment options. In fact, many patients who are diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia never leave this initial stage of the disease. Nearly 90% of patients with newly diagnosed CML cases are in the chronic stage.

This fact should be a source of hope to anyone diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. The initial stage of CML can be treated quite successfully. With proper treatment, patients living with CML can expect to live almost as long as the rest of the population. This extended life expectancy is largely due to the use of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Before these drugs were used, a person diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia typically only lived roughly 3 to 7 years after being diagnosed. This meant that a diagnosis of chronic myelogenous leukemia would have essentially been a death sentence.

How tyrosine kinase inhibitors extend life expectancy

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are a targeted form of cancer therapy. These drugs target tyrosine kinases, which are enzymes that allow cells to send signals, grow, and divide. In cancers such as CML, the tyrosine kinase enzymes are too high in numbers or too active, which allow the cancer cells to spread rapidly.

Using tyrosine kinase inhibitors blocks the enzymes, preventing the cancer cells from growing and spreading. The use of tyrosine inhibitors has turned CML, which was once a death sentence when diagnosed, into a manageable form of cancer and allows patients to live much longer lives.

Living with chronic myelogenous leukemia

Despite the use of new drugs, such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia, there is no cure for this type of cancer. Patients diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia will live with this disease for the rest of their lives.

This means that treatment for this type of cancer will be lifelong. Although the cancer may go into hiding or remission during treatment, it will never truly go away. If treatment is not continued throughout a patient's lifetime, chronic myelogenous leukemia will progress to stages two and three. With proper treatment, however, patients living with chronic myelogenous leukemia can live full and long lives.

Last Reviewed:
July 25, 2017
Last Updated:
October 24, 2017
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