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What is the survival rate for prostate cancer?

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Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, which is located under the bladder. The prostate cancer survival rate is generally good, and factors, such as treatment response and early detection, can influence the outcome.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common cancer in males in the United States.

According to the American Cancer Society, 268,490 males received a diagnosis of prostate cancer in the U.S. in 2022. Approximately 34,500 people died.

Prostate cancer is common, affecting about 1 in 8 males. However, most people with this type of cancer will survive.

This article looks at survival rates for prostate cancer, factors that affect survival rates, and prostate cancer screening.

Overall survival rate

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The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) states that the 5-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer for the years 2012–2018 was 96.8%.

A relative survival rate helps give an idea of how long a person with a particular condition will live after receiving a diagnosis compared with those without the condition.

For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate is 70%, it means that a person with the condition is 70% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without the condition.

It is important to remember that these figures are estimates. A person can consult a healthcare professional to discuss in more depth how their condition might affect them.

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Survival rate based on stage

Cancer progresses in stages:

  • In situ: There are abnormal cells, but they are not yet cancerous and have not spread to any nearby tissue.
  • Localized: Cancer is present, but there are no signs to suggest it has spread beyond its original location.
  • Regional: Cancer has spread to nearby tissues, organs, or lymph nodes.
  • Distant: Cancer has spread to areas of the body that are farther from the original site.
  • Unknown: The information needed to determine the stage is not available.

The SEER program tracks cancer data in the U.S. The 5-year relative survival rates by SEER stage for prostate cancer are as follows:

SEER stage5-year Relative Survival Rate
Localized99%
Regional99%
Distant31%
Unknown85.8%
All stages combined98%

A person may also hear doctors refer to cancer stages in number format, from 0–4.

Learn more about the stages of cancer here.

Factors that affect survival rate

Survival rate statistics apply only to the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Other factors that can affect the outcome include:

  • a person’s age
  • a person’s overall health
  • a person’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
  • Gleason score, or grade group
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

The Gleason score and grade group are numerical rating scales that reflect the appearance of biopsied prostate tissue.

The Gleason score range is 1–5. A grade of 1 means the biopsy revealed prostate tissue that looks normal. Grade 5 means the tissue looks highly abnormal, and grades 2–4 range somewhere in between.

Since cancer staging can involve biopsies from multiple sites, the grade group includes two Gleason scores. As a result, the grade group score can range from 2–10.

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Screening for prostate cancer

Screening is the process of checking for a disease in the absence of symptoms. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), although prostate cancer occurs more often in males over the age of 65, screening can begin as early as age 45.

However, the PCF suggests that males of African descent and people who have certain risk factors, such as a history of prostate or other cancers in their family, begin screening at age 40. Although the reasons for this are unclear, prostate cancer occurs about 75% more often in Black males than white males.

Johns Hopkins Medicine indicates that the most beneficial age for males without risk factors to begin prostate cancer screening is 55–69 years. This is when males are most likely to get cancer, and treatment benefits outweigh risks of possible side effects.

A doctor can advise when is the best time to start prostate cancer screening.

PSA test

Prostate cancer screening begins with a blood test to measure the prostate-specific antigen. This is a protein the prostate produces and releases in small quantities into the bloodstream.

An elevated PSA test can indicate a possible problem with the prostate.

There are several reasons PSA blood levels might be higher than usual, including:

  • cancer
  • advancing age
  • inflammation
  • infection
  • vigorous exercise or ejaculation within the 2 days prior to testing

An out-of-range PSA test does not necessarily indicate the presence of cancer.

Digital rectal exam (DRE)

The DRE is another screening test doctors use to check for prostate issues.

To perform a DRE, a doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to check the size, shape, and texture of the prostate.

Prostate enlargement can be a natural part of aging and may not be a sign of cancer. For example, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) causes an enlarged prostate gland but is not cancerous.

A doctor can recommend testing frequency based on a person’s general health and the test results. For example, those with a PSA result of less than 2.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) may only need testing every 2 years.

Summary

Prostate cancer is a common cancer that occurs in males. The overall outlook for prostate cancer is positive, and most people survive, especially with early detection.

Distant prostate cancer has a lower survival rate than cancer that is localized or regional.

Prostate cancer screening can increase the survival rate by identifying the presence of cancer before it spreads.

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