A man walks to the top of a mountain, where he sees a signpost with many signs pointing in different directions.

From Diagnosis to Now: What A Prostate Cancer Treatment Plan Looks Like

Last updated: November 2021

For some, receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis may come as a shock. Others might feel overwhelmed or scared. No matter whether the diagnosis is a surprise or expected, there is a lot to process. Each diagnosis also comes with many decisions that must be made about treatment.

One out of every 9 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. We conducted our 2020 Prostate Cancer In America survey to learn more about how men living the condition approached and built their treatment plan following their diagnosis. More than 1,000 people with prostate cancer completed the survey and shared how they made important decisions about their care.1

Most men do not know their prostate cancer type

Doctors describe prostate cancer by type, grade, and stage. Type describes where the cancer started. Grade describes how cancer cells look. This helps doctors figure out what the cancer may do next. Stage describes how much the cancer has spread.2

Survey responses show that the majority of respondents – 60 percent – do not know their prostate cancer type. Of those who do know their type, prostatic adenocarcinoma is the most common, with 32 percent of respondents having this type. Other types reported by a small number of respondents include prostatic sarcoma, small cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

While many survey respondents do not know the specifics of their cancer, they are aware that their doctors use the following terms to describe it:

  • Aggressive (30 percent)
  • Early stage (28 percent)
  • Slow-growing (23 percent)
  • Advanced (18 percent)
  • Metastatic (13 percent)
  • Non-metastatic (5 percent)
  • Castration-resistant (4 percent)
  • Hormone resistant (2 percent)
  • None of the above (6 percent)

Another 12 percent are unsure about how their doctor has described their cancer.

More men know their prostate cancer stage

About 40 percent of respondents shared that they currently have no evidence of disease (NED)/undetectable PSA/in remission. Other stages of respondents include:

  • Stage I (15 percent)
  • Stage IIA (3 percent) or IIB (8 percent)
  • Stage III (6 percent)
  • Stage IV (13 percent)
  • Unsure (16 percent)

Time in NED/undetectable PSA/in remission varied among respondents. Nearly half – 47 percent – have been NED/undetectable PSA/in remission for 2 or more years. Another 25 percent have been NED for 1 to 2 years, 15 percent for 6 months to 1 year, and 13 percent for less than 6 months.

Doctors, family members, and cancer survivors influence treatment plans

Nearly every survey respondent – 93 percent – shared that they had help making decisions about their treatment plan.

  • 82 had help from their doctor
  • 48 percent had help from friends or family
  • 19 percent had help from other prostate cancer patients
  • 10 percent had help from a nurse/other healthcare professional

A small number of respondents made their decisions based on help and information from support groups, online blogs, and research.

Treatment effectiveness, side effects, and safety are important factors

Survey respondents also provided information about the different factors that influenced their treatment plan. The most important factors include:

  • Effectiveness (56 percent)
  • Potential side effects (31 percent)
  • Long-term safety (23 percent)
  • Convenience/ease of the treatment (19 percent)

Some men also considered where treatment will take place, how long it will last, and insurance coverage.

Radiation and surgery are commonly discussed

While each person with prostate cancer has a unique journey, most survey respondents shared that their doctor talked to them about radiation therapy and surgery at the time of their diagnosis. The most common treatments discussed include:

  • Radiation (76 percent)
  • Surgery (73 percent)
  • Hormone therapy (52 percent)
  • Regular monitoring (42 percent)
  • Watchful waiting (30 percent)
  • Chemotherapy (18 percent)

The most common treatment is surgery

Nearly half of survey respondents – 45 percent – choose surgery as their first treatment, with radical prostatectomy being the most common. Other first treatments include:

  • Hormone therapy (25 percent)
  • Radiation therapy (23 percent)
  • Regular monitoring (15 percent)
  • Watchful waiting (6 percent)
  • Chemotherapy (3 percent)

Most begin treatment soon after diagnosis

About 88 percent of respondents opted to begin treatment within 6 months of their prostate cancer diagnosis. Time between diagnosis and starting treatment/surgery includes:

  • Within 1 month (24 percent)
  • 1 month up to 3 months (43 percent)
  • 3 months to 6 months (21 percent)
  • 6 months up to 1 year (7 percent)
  • 1 year up to 2 years (2 percent)
  • 2 years or more (3 percent)

More than half feel their prostate cancer is currently controlled

Over 60 percent of survey respondents feel their prostate cancer is well-controlled on their current treatment plan. Only 7 percent feel that their condition is not at all controlled.

The 2020 Prostate Cancer In America survey was conducted online from November 2019 through April 2020. 1,162 people completed the survey.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

What influences your decisions when choosing a physician? (Select all that apply)