Survival statistics for chronic myelogenous leukemia

Survival statistics for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) 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 CML 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 CML is 60%. This means that about 60% of people diagnosed with CML will survive for at least 5 years.

Treatments and survival

The goal of treatments for CML is to bring about a complete remission, which means that the blood cell counts have returned to normal and stay at or near normal levels for long periods of time. The only treatment known to bring about a complete remission or cure in CML is high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant. This treatment is very intense and can cause serious side effects, so some people may not be able to have it. Other treatments slow the progression of CML, but do not bring about a complete remission.

New drugs (tyrosine kinase inhibitors, TKIs) that are highly effective in treating most cases of CML became available in 2001. These drugs include imatinib (Gleevec), dasatinib (Sprycel) and nilotinib (Tasigna). Because they are new, there is no accurate research on survival rates with these drugs. But people who have been on these drugs since 2001 are still alive. Studies have found that about 90% of people treated with imatinib (Gleevec) were still alive after 5 years. Most of these people had no signs of leukemia such as abnormal chromosomes and white blood cell count. It's not clear whether or not they have been cured. Longer follow-up is still needed.

Observed survival

Observed survival is the proportion of people with a particular cancer who are alive at a certain point in time.

The observed survival for CML following stem cell transplant can be longer than 10 years.

The 5-year observed survival for CML is greater than 90% when it is treated with imatinib.

Questions about survival

If you have CML, 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

  • American Cancer Society. Leukemia - Chronic Myeloid (Myelogenous). Atlanta, GA: 2013:
  • Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee . Canadian Cancer Statistics 2019 . Toronto, ON : Canadian Cancer Society ; 2019 :
  • Druker BJ, Lee SJ . Chronic myelogenous leukemia. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 133: pp. 1962-1972.
  • O'Brien SG, Goldman JM . Diagnosis and treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. Wiernik PH, Goldman JM, Dutcher JP & Kyle RA (eds.). Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 5th ed. Springer; 2013: 5: pp. 45-62.