The prognosis depends on the type of leukemia, the extent of the disease, age of the patient, and the general condition of the patient. Some patients can go into complete remission. The average five-year survival rate of leukemia is 60-65%.
The survival rate of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) depends on the age of the patient and the response to chemotherapy. The average five-year survival in ALL is 68.1%. Survival rates continue to improve with newer and improved treatment modalities. The prognosis is better in those under 35 years of age, and children have the best prognosis. The highest death rates due to ALL is seen in those over 65 years of age. 40% of adults can be cured of ALL. The average five-year survival rate of American children with ALL is around 85%. Children are considered cured of ALL if they are in remission (symptom-free period) for more than five years after treatment.
Patients with leukemia may ultimately die due to multiple infections (bacterial, fungal, and viral), severe nutritional deficiencies, and failure of multiple organ systems. Patients can also face complications due to the treatment, which can sometimes be life-threatening.
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells and bone marrow. There is an abnormally high production of white bloodless (cells that fight infection and provide immunity), which are unable to mature properly leading to the symptoms in leukemia.
- Myeloid leukemia (myelogenous leukemia) arises from the myeloid line of the white blood cells. Normal myeloid cells undergo differentiation to form leukocytes.
- Lymphoid leukemia (lymphoid or lymphoblastic leukemia) arises from the lymphoid line of cells in the bone marrow.
What are the types of leukemia?
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL):
- It progresses rapidly and spreads to other organ systems through the blood.
- It mostly occurs in children and above the age of 45 years.
- It is the second most common leukemia in adults and rapidly progressive.
- It is commonly seen in adults aged over 55-60 years.
- The myeloid cells mutate, forming defective cells, and prevent the formation of normal, healthy blood cells (white, red, and platelets).
- It is slow-growing cancer that begins in the lymphocyte cells present in the bone marrow.
- There is abnormally high multiplication of the lymphocyte cells that are immature and do not function properly.
- It is associated with a chromosomal abnormality known as the Philadelphia chromosome.
- The upper part of chromosome 22 breaks off and attaches to the lower part of chromosome 9. The upper part of chromosome 9 attaches to the lower part of chromosome 22.
Hairy cell leukemia (HCL):
- It is a rare subtype of CLL that progresses slowly.
- The bone marrow produces a high number of B-Cells, a type of white blood cell that fights against infection-causing a decrease in healthy blood cells.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS):
A group of closely related diseases in which the bone marrow produces very few healthy, functioning red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, or any combination of the three.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Some common signs and symptoms include:
How is leukemia treated?
Treatment involves one or a combination of the following treatment modalities:
- Chemotherapy: Single drug or a combination of different drugs to kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation is used to damage, kill, and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
- Bone marrow transplant: Diseased bone marrow is replaced with healthy bone marrow from the patient (autologous transplantation) or a donor (allologous transplantation).
- Immunotherapy: They modulate the body’s immune system attacking cancer cells.
- Treatment of pain, anemia, and infections
- Nutritional supplementation
- Palliative care in untreatable cases: Interdisciplinary medical care to improve quality of life, reduce pain, and suffering.
- Treatment of side effects of cancer treatment such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and inflammation of the skin.
- Psychological support
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