Leukemia is a severe form of cancer, which begins in the cells responsible for formation of blood cells. The term 'leukemia' is given considering the fact that the white blood cell count for a leukemia patient is increased significantly. In a healthy individual, the red blood cells (RBCs) and white blood cells (WBCs) are formed from the stem cells of the bone marrow, whenever the body requires them. Whereas, for a patient with leukemia, the blood cells are proliferated abnormally, resulting in increased production of dysfunctional blood cells. The survival rate of leukemia patients is very low, thus enlisting it as one of the most fatal cancer forms.
Classification of Leukemia
To put in simple words, leukemia is an umbrella term that encompasses several types of blood cancer. Classification of leukemia is done based on the type of blood cells that get affected and on the disease progression. While acute leukemia refers to quick proliferation of the cancerous blood cells, a chronic leukemia causes gradual production of the same. For better understanding, different types of leukemia are given below.
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): Majority of adult patients are diagnosed with CLL. Over here, the lymphocytic cells (a type of WBCs) are affected.
- Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML): In CML, the myeloid cells (a type of WBCs) are affected. In most cases, this form of cancer also affects adults.
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL): This is the most common leukemia type diagnosed in children. It affects the lymphocytic cells and progresses quickly.
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): In AML type, the myeloid cells are affected and symptoms worsen very rapidly. It affects both children and adults.
Survival Rate of Leukemia Patients
The average life expectancy of leukemia patients is considered to be five years after diagnosis. Leukemia survival rates are estimated, based on whether a patient can live for five years or not after undergoing treatment. Treatment of leukemia is done with the administration of chemotherapy and other medications.
In some patients, intervention that involves radiation therapy has shown prompt results. If necessary, the physician may recommend transplantation of bone marrow for addressing leukemia. Apart from the treatment options, the survival rate differs according to the patient's age and type of leukemia, which is discussed below.
Survival Rate in Children
Children are most susceptible to acute leukemia type, particularly ALL. For children with ALL, the five-year survival rate is about 80 percent after advocating chemotherapy. However, for children with AML, the five-year survival rate is low, less than 40 percent.
Survival Rate in Adults
As we have seen, adults are more susceptible to the chronic leukemia type. In case of adults, the five-year survival rate is approximately 40 percent, after administration of chemotherapy drugs. In adult patients with ALL, the five-year survival rate is about 35 percent.
In the objective to increase the survival rate of leukemia patients, studies are going on to determine the causes and effective treatment approaches for the same. Even though, the exact causes of leukemia are still not identified, medical experts are of the opinion that repeated exposure to hazardous chemicals and ionizing radiations is the main triggering factor for development of this blood cancer. And irrespective of the age group, the estimated survival rate of five years is approximately 43 percent. Among the four types of leukemia, ALL is reported to have the highest survival rate in both children and adults.