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Leukemia & Lymphoma

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Kids With Leukemia Doing Better

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Oct. 5, 2001 -- New treatments for childhood leukemia are having a dramatic effect on survival, and a new look at the numbers shows that these kids are doing much better than once believed.

Old estimates said that no more than two out of three kids with leukemia would live for at least 15 years after diagnosis. The new figures show that nearly three in four kids will survive for at least 15 years after being told they have leukemia.

Traditional ways of looking at childhood leukemia didn't do a good enough job of separating out kids getting the latest treatments from those getting older treatments, says Herman Brenner, MD, MPH, of the German Center for Research on Aging in Heidelberg, Germany. His team has come up with a better way to do the numbers, which focuses on kids in the most recent time group.

Brenner's team used the new method to look at one of the world's largest cancer databases. The German Childhood Cancer Registry has information on some 13 million children. The researchers analyzed survival rates for over 8,000 kids up to 14 years old who had leukemia between 1981 and 1998.

Here's what they found:

Overall Childhood Leukemia

5 years

10 years

15 years

Current survival rate

81%

77%

73%

Old survival rate

76.5%-78.6%

67.7%-72%

62.5%-66.7%

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

5 years

10 years

15 years

Current survival rate

86%

81%

77%

Old survival rate

83.6%-84.7%

73.4%-78%

68.8%-72.8%

Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia

5 years

10 years

15 years

Current survival rate

59%

59%

57%

Old survival rate

44.2%-51.2%

45%-46.8%

36.2%-42.1%

"Improvements in long-term survival rates of children with leukemia achieved by the end of the second millennium are considerably greater than has been reported previously," Brenner and co-workers conclude. "This may help to relieve undue anxiety and depression among children with leukemia and their families."

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