written by: Finn Orfano
• edited by: lrohner
• updated: 5/11/2011
Acute myeloid leukemia is a type of blood cancer that progresses quickly and can be potentially fatal within months or weeks. Learn some important information on what affects the survivability of this disease.
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Acute myeloid leukemia (or AML) is a type of blood cancer that is characterized by a rapid growth of white blood cells. These will subsequently accumulate in the bone marrow (hence myeloid), and there they will interfere with the production of regular blood cells. This causes a decrease in the number of red blood cells, blood platelets and regular white blood cells. These events cause the symptoms, which include easy bruising, bleeding, fatigue and an increased risk of infection.
As an acute cancer type, it progresses quickly and can be fatal within months or even weeks if left untreated. There are several subtypes of AML. It is relatively rare, constituting a little over one percent of U.S. cancer deaths.
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General Survival Rate
Usually cancer survival rates are expressed by stating the percentage of survivors 5 years after the diagnosis, whether they have few or no signs of the cancer, are free of disease or are under treatment. As with many cancers, the AML leukemia survival rate has increased in the last decades due to advances in medical knowledge and technology.
Nevertheless, there are still many patients that sadly succumb to AML. From 1999 to 2006, the general survival rate for adults suffering from AML is 24.2 percent. For children under 15 years of age this is 60.9 percent.
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Factors Affecting Survival Rate
There are some factors that may have a fairly large effect on the AML leukemia survival rate:
Age: this has a serious effect on the 5 year survival rate, where the older patients run a higher risk of not surviving AML. 19.8% of patients who die as a result of AML are under 54 years of age, whereas 80.2% was older than 54. So the effect of age is obvious. The younger the patient is, the better his/her chance of survival. This might partly due to the fact that younger individuals are better in coping with strong chemotherapy medicines.
Cytogenetics: the chromosomal structure of the leukemic cells also has a rather large impact on the survival rate. Three risk categories can be discerned: good, intermediate and poor. About half of the AML patients falls in the intermediate category. The five year survival rate for each category is 70%, 48% and 15% respectively.
Overall fitness and prior white blood cell count: A higher physical fitness and white blood cell count prior to the cancer can improve the chances of survival.
It is important to realize that these survival rates are generalizations, and each individual responds differently to cancer. So, even if a patient falls in a higher risk category, there is still hope.
Grimwade, D.; Walker, H.; Oliver, F.; Wheatley, K.; Harrison, G.; Rees, J.; Hann, I.; Stevens, R.; Burnett, A. & Goldstone, A. (1998). The Importance of Cytogenetics onOutcome in AML: Analysis of 1,612 Patients Entered Into the MRC AML 10 Trial. Blood 92 (7), pp. 2322 – 2333.
Jemal, A.; Thomas, A.; Murray, T. & Thun, M. (2002) Cancer Statistics, 2002. CA Cancer J Clin. 52, pp. 23 – 47.