The seriousness of prostate cancer depends on the stage at which it is diagnosed. Five-year survival rates can range from 100 percent for early stages that have yet to spread beyond the prostate to 30 percent for later stages in which the cancer has spread to surrounding organs. If the cancer has become metastatic, or spread to distant organs or the bones, then no cure is possible and death cannot be prevented, usually coming within three years of diagnosis.
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Prostate cancer, although common, is often treatable if caught early. It is one of the slower growing cancers, so most often, people can live for many years with prostate cancer. However, all cancers are to be taken seriously and, if allowed to progress to advanced stages, can be deadly.
After skin cancer, cancer of the prostate is the most common cancer in American men. This disease is extremely common and often produces no symptoms, because it usually (but not always) spreads quite slowly. (For prostate cancer at an early stage, the likelihood of surviving for 10 more years is almost 90%.)
Prostate cancers occur most frequently in older men. Only a small percentage of older men who have prostate cancer will die from the disease; they are much more likely to die from some other cause. Even so, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men. Unfortunately, the rate has been increasing about 6% a year -- oddly enough, because of greater efforts at early detection of the disease.
The American Urological Association recently reported that 30% of American men over the age of 50 will have at least microscopic evidence of prostate cancer. It’s a fact most men will not have any signs or symptoms of prostate cancer, and will live a normal lifespan without ever knowing of its presence. But approximately 30,000 men will die of prostate cancer in the USA this year, and thus it appears prostate cancer severity is markedly variable. Urologists have the daunting task of differentiating lethal prostate cancers from those that just don’t matter. Higher grades and higher PSA levels may certainly indicate increased serious disease, but the science of adequately staging prostate cancer is inexact.