Survival statistics for chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Survival statistics for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for CLL and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive their cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for CLL is 83%. This means that about 83% of people diagnosed with CLL will survive for at least 5 years.

Median survival

Survival for CLL is reported as median survival. Median survival is the period of time (usually months or years) at which half of the people with cancer are still alive. The other half will live less than this amount of time.

The median survival varies with each stage of CLL. The stages of CLL are divided into levels of risk that indicate how likely the disease is to worsen. Age, the pattern of lymphocytes in the bone marrow, chromosome changes and other characteristics of the CLL can also affect survival.

Staging system

Stage

Level of risk

Median survival

Rai

0

low

more than 12.5 years

1 and 2

intermediate

7 years
3 and 4 high 1.5 years

Binet

A

low

More than 10 years

B

intermediate

5–7 years
C high 2–3 years

Questions about survival

If you have CLL, talk to your doctor about your prognosis. Prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your medical history
  • type of cancer
  • stage
  • characteristics of the cancer
  • treatments chosen
  • response to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

Expert review and references

  • Borthakur G, O'Brien S . Treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and related disorders. Wiernik PH, Goldman JM, Dutcher JP & Kyle RA (eds.). Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 5th ed. Springer; 2013: 9: pp. 121-119.
  • Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019 . Toronto, ON : Canadian Cancer Society; 2019: https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/canadian-cancer-statistics/past-editions-canadian-cancer-statistics/.
  • National Cancer Institute. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014.
  • Wierda WG, O'Brien S . Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 134: pp. 1973-1987.