Hi, I’m Dr. Scholz.
A common question we get at the PCRI is “What is my life expectancy? I’ve just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
This is usually a good news type answer for men with prostate cancer because people may not be aware how different prostate cancer is from other types of cancer: Pancreas cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer. Survival rates with prostate cancer are excellent. Just to give you a rough idea, the American Cancer Society on their website for prostate cancer states that of all the men diagnosed every year five year survival with prostate cancer is 99%; ten year survival with prostate cancer is 98%; 15 year survival with prostate cancer is 94%.
Now, those numbers are going to be better going forward. You can’t have 15 year outcomes without going 15 years into the past, and so those are statistics for men that were diagnosed you know around 2000 or 2005. Men that are diagnosed in 2019 are going to have even better outcomes because technology today is superior to what we had then, and of course men that are going to live another 5, 10, 15 years are going to grandfather into even better technology.
There are men however that pass away from prostate cancer. “What is all that about?” It’s basically two issues. One is some men don’t get screened and they’re diagnosed with very advanced disease at the get-go. And then there are certain rare subtypes of prostate cancer that behave much more aggressively, and those are the ones that we all hear about. The bad news stories.
So men with prostate cancer need to be very careful about defining what type of prostate cancer they have. Most of the prostate cancers are very management, curable, and can be controlled for very long periods of time.
So survival rates with prostate cancer are surprisingly good and of course with modern medicine they’re getting even better. Men who are facing a new diagnosis of prostate cancer—since survival is so excellent—need to be considering how their treatment is going to impact their quality of life. They’re going to live with these treatment decisions for many, many years. Many people rush into therapy thinking that fight the cancer aggressively, get cured, “I don’t want to die.” And that type of attitude is for people with other types of cancers. With prostate cancer, because the prostate is located in such a sensitive area (very near the issues of urinary function and sexual function) men need to be a little more circumspect, go a little more slowly, and look at the whole broad spectrum because thankfully survival rates with prostate cancer in general are really, really good.