Can I Survive CLL? What Is My Prognosis?

A prognosis is a statement about the prospect of surviving and recovering from a disease. It may seem hard to ask, “Can I survive this?” But it’s a question most people have when they learn they have leukemia. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer.

Your chance of recovery depends on a number of things.

  • The type and location of the cancer

  • Its stage

  • How quickly it is likely to grow and spread

  • Your age and general health

  • How you respond to treatment

Before discussing your prognosis with you, your doctor will consider all the things that could affect your disease and treatment. Your doctor will then predict what seems likely to happen. To do that, the doctor will look at what researchers have found out over many years about thousands of people with leukemia. When possible, the doctor will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours to make a prediction.

If your cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your doctor will say you have a favorable prognosis. If the leukemia is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be unfavorable. It is important to keep in mind, though, that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will happen. No doctor can be absolutely certain about the outcome.

Some people find it easier to cope when they know their prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistical information confusing and frightening. Or they might think it is too general to be useful. The doctor who is most familiar with your situation is in the best position to discuss your prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean for you. At the same time, you should keep in mind that a person’s prognosis may change. A favorable prognosis can change if the leukemia progresses. An unfavorable one can change if treatment is successful. The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It is up to you to decide how much you want to know.

What Does the Five-Year Survival Rate Mean?

Survival rates show the percentage of people with a certain type of leukemia who survive for a certain period of time after they are diagnosed. A 5-year survival rate refers to people who live 5 years after they are diagnosed. These are the people it includes.

  • Those who are free of disease

  • Those who have few or no signs or symptoms of leukemia

  • Those who are having treatment for leukemia

Many people with CLL live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis. Because the statistics we have for 5-year rates now are based on people diagnosed and initially treated more than 5 years ago, it’s possible that the outlook could be more favorable today. That’s because of improvements in treatment.

Survival rates are based on large groups of people. They cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular person. No 2 people are exactly alike, and treatment and responses to treatment vary greatly.


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