Prostate Cancer Prognosis

Currently, over 160,000 individuals are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually, however only 26,000 deaths in America in 2017 will be due to the condition (making up 4.4% of all cancer-related deaths in the United States), indicating that prostate cancer prognosis is generally very good.1,2 Additionally, an estimated three million men who have been diagnosed with or are currently battling prostate cancer are still alive today.

Factors that determine prognosis

Everyone’s experience with prostate cancer can vary based on a variety of factors. Factors that affect an individual’s overall prognosis or response to treatment include:

  • Age of diagnosis
  • Other personal demographics (like race or ethnicity)
  • Characteristics of the cancer such as tumor size, Gleason score, stage, location, or lymph node or other organ involvement
  • Other serious medical conditions
  • Personal and provider’s opinions on treating the cancer
  • Your specific cancer’s ability to respond to treatment
  • Other life-altering side effects from treatments (for example, exposure to serious radiation)
  • This is not an exhaustive list of all factors that can contribute to an individual’s specific prognosis. Your provider will be able to look closer at your specific case and other variables surrounding your diagnosis to determine the most accurate prognosis.3

    Survival rates

    Cancer is often considered cured when the patient has been in complete remission (no signs or symptoms of disease) for 5 years. Most cases of prostate cancer are detected at early stages, making treatment options more viable and efficient. Factors like these are what lead to the incredibly high survival rates of prostate cancer. A condition’s survival rate is the percentage of individuals with the condition that are still alive after a certain number of years post-treatment or diagnosis. Survival rates are often measured in 5-year increments, with the 5-year relative survival rate being the most common statistic analyzed.

    These rates do not provide an individual’s exact chance of survival or positive response to treatment, but rather, act as a comparison between individuals with the same type and stage of cancer to get a better understanding of the general course a condition could take. Survival rates are also not the same as disease-free survival rates, which is the amount of time a person lives after treatment with no signs or symptoms of the cancer. The survival rates reported for most cancers, including prostate cancer, are not disease-free survival rates, but rather include any individual still alive after diagnosis or treatment with or without the condition.

    When looking at any survival rate, it is important to understand the demographics of individuals included in the statistic, as factors such as age, other medical conditions, treatment history, and race or ethnicity can affect survival rate data for a condition. The following survival rate information for prostate cancer has been collected from a national cancer registry, and includes individuals of all demographics.

    The five-year relative survival rate, or the rate of survival with prostate cancer in comparison to the rate of survival of those without the condition was reported at almost 99% between 2006 and 2012. This means that for every one hundred healthy men without prostate cancer surviving over five years, 99 men with prostate cancer also survived from their diagnosis or start of treatment. At the 10- and 15-year marks, this number still reaches beyond 90%.

    Local prostate cancer: Local prostate cancer has not spread beyond the prostate, and includes roughly 80% of all new prostate cancer cases. The five-year relative survival rate for these individuals is nearly 100%.

    Regional prostate cancer: Regional prostate cancer has spread to nearby areas. The five-year relative survival rate for these individuals is also nearly 100%.

    Distant prostate cancer: Distant prostate cancer includes prostate cancers that have spread to distant lymph nodes, organs, or bones. The five-year relative survival rate for this group is roughly 30%, however, this group comprises only 5% of all prostate cancer cases.

    Further survival rates for advanced prostate cancer can vary based on extent of progression and response to treatment.4-7

    Prostate cancer mortality

    Even though prostate cancer has high survival rates for the majority of individuals diagnosed with the condition, death from prostate cancer is still a possibility. Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, trailing only lung and colorectal cancers. Although this seems like an intimidating fact, it is important to note that the rate of death from prostate cancer has been steadily declining. In 1993, 39.3 men died of prostate cancer out of every 100,000 men. Since then, this rate has trended downward, and is currently at approximately 19.1 male deaths out of every 100,000, a statistic that takes into account all races, ages, and other demographic factors.

    The highest death rate from prostate cancer is observed in those 75 years of age and older, with the median age of death reported around 80 years old. Further, the death rate from prostate cancer is the highest for African American males, who also have the highest rate of new cases annually for reasons unknown.

    For those who are cured, surviving, or in remission from prostate cancer, it is still important to talk with your doctor about creating a survivorship plan specifically for you.8 A plan like this typically includes follow-up test and appointment schedules, dietary and physical activity information, and potential signs and symptoms to watch for in order to reduce your risk of recurrence or developing a second cancer in another location.2,5

Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: October 2017
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