What is Prostate Cancer?
In general, cancer is a condition in which a normal cell becomes abnormal and starts to grow uncontrollably without having the signals or “brakes” that stop typical cell growth. Prostate cancer starts in the prostate gland, a small gland located below the bladder, that is responsible for secreting one of the components of semen.
Prostate cancer cells form masses of abnormal cells known as tumors. Prostate cancer, therefore, is when a normal prostate cell becomes altered and starts growing in an uncontrolled way.
In many cases, prostate cancer is relatively slow growing, which means that it takes a number of years to become large enough to be detectable, and even longer to spread outside the prostate, or metastasize. However, some cases are more aggressive and need more urgent treatment.
Surviving Prostate Cancer
Approximately 95% of all prostate cancers are detected when the cancer is confined to the prostate, so treatment success rates are high compared to most other types of cancer in the body. The 5-year survival rate in the United States for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is 99%.
In other words, the chances of the cancer spreading or men dying from their prostate cancers is generally low. However, prostate cancer comes in many forms and some men can have aggressive prostate cancer even when it appears to be confined to the prostate.
Amidst so much optimism and progress in the last 10 years, it’s important to keep in mind that prostate cancer is still a deadly disease for some men, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the US, with nearly 88 men dying from it every day.
In general, the earlier the cancer is caught and treated, the more likely the patient will remain disease-free.
In fact, many men with “low-risk” tumors, which are the most common type of prostate cancer, can safely undergo Active Surveillance, in which they are monitored without immediate treatment (and treatment-related side effects) while still preserving their chance of longterm survival if the cancer becomes aggressive enough to require treatment.
Rates of Diagnosis
Prostate cancer is the leading cause of non-skin cancer in the US, and the second leading cause of cancer worldwide; approximately 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
The older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although only about 1 in 350 men under age 50 will be diagnosed, the rate shoots up to 1 in 52 for ages 50 to 59, 1 in 19 for ages 60 to 69, and 1 in 11 for men 70 and older. Nearly 60% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.