My consultant says this is necessary but very risky. What is the success rate on BMT after AML. What happens if I don’t get the transplant? I only see my consultant once every 6 weeks.

  • Hello, Lena.

    It seems that your consultant is being very candid about the treatment (BMT) he’s recommending. I hope that I can lighten up that plain speaking with some facts. Six weeks must seem like a long time to have to wait between consultations.

    The first thing that I should explain is that doctors or medical scientists don’t usually talk about “success rates” when giving information about treatments and illness.

    They have come up with another term which can seem frightening until it’s explained, so please bear with me on that.

    The phrase they use is “five-year survival rate”. This can be a bit shocking to hear without an explanation but it’s simply what they think of as a “neutral” way of talking about the science behind treatment. It doesn’t limit anyone’s life to less than 5 years or guarantee anything beyond that. It’s the language of science and that can seem cold at times.

    Whenever I talk one-to-one with someone about survival rates, I’m always careful to remind them that these rates are just a way of framing statistics. And statistics are only based on averages. I’m then careful to add that there’s no such thing as an average person.

    Try to keep that in mind when you look at any information on statistics for AML. One of the best resources I’ve come across is the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) website. Canada’s treatments and statistics are very similar to the UK’s so the section on AML statistics is relevant to your question.

    It’s not possible to say what might happen without a transplant. AML can progress in different ways for each individual person.

    Even when doctors feel that they can’t treat a cancer or leukaemia directly there is always the option to relieve symptoms caused by the disease. That’s what’s meant by palliative care. It’s about quality of life not end of life.

    I’m very aware that I’ve perhaps burdened you with a lot of information. Some of that will be understandably hard to adjust to. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone and discuss new insights. If you’d like to talk to an experienced cancer information nurse our support line is open seven days a week for free and completely confidential calls.

    I hope that this has been of some help. Please feel free to get back in touch at any time.

    Best wishes, Bill (Cancer Information Nurse Specialist)