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Last updated August 9, 2019. 3 minute read

Prostate cancer survival rates: an explanation

Men in the US have an 11.6% risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. The five-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer varies depending on the stage at the time of diagnosis but is 98% overall.

Dr Chimene Richa Md Written by Dr. Chimene Richa, MD
Reviewed by Dr. Tzvi Doron, DO

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer affecting men in the United States. While this statistic is striking, it must also be remembered that most men with prostate cancer will not die from it. There are almost three million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and are still alive today (ACS, 2019). 

Vitals

  • The incidence rate for prostate cancer is approximately 109.5 new cases for every 100,000 men in the US.
  • Men in the US have an 11.6% risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
  • The five-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer varies depending on the stage at the time of diagnosis but is 98% overall.

Incidence rate of prostate cancer

We often refer to the incidence rate of cancer. This rate refers to the number of newly diagnosed cases over a given period. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there will be about 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer and about 31,620 deaths from prostate cancer in the U.S. this year alone (ACS, 2019). Looking at the trends from 2012-2016, we can see that 109.5 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed per 100,000 men per year (NCI, n.d.). Men in the U.S. have an 11.6% chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life. Most cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men aged 65 years or older. Also, African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer have higher incidence rates of prostate cancer.

Survival rate of prostate cancer

Another important cancer statistic for you to know is the prostate cancer survival rate. Survival statistics are usually described as the percentage of patients alive at some defined point (most often five years) after their diagnosis. These statistics are specific to a particular type and grade of cancer and are based on trends that have been observed in groups of patients. Survival rates can’t predict future health or well-being for any one person, as each person will respond to cancer and treatments differently. It is essential to discuss your particular situation with your healthcare provider. 

When discussing survival rate, we are usually talking about the five-year relative survival rate. A relative survival rate compares people with specific cancer at a particular stage to the overall population. The five-year relative survival rate means how likely someone with cancer will be alive five years after they are diagnosed when compared to people without cancer. The overall (all stages combined) five-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer in the U.S. is 98% (ACS, 2019). This means that men with prostate cancer are 98% as likely as those without it to still be alive five years after their prostate cancer diagnosis. 

Typically, these survival statistics are broken down based on the stage or grade of cancer. For most cancers, the more aggressive or advanced the disease (meaning it has spread to other parts of the body), the lower the 5-year relative survival rate. The same is true for prostate cancer. The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM has a cancer staging system for prostate cancer that is used for a detailed description of the disease and determination of treatment options. However, the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER), which is the database that compiles the incidence and survival rates, groups prostate cancer into localized, regional, and distant (metastatic prostate cancer) (NCI, n.d.).  

  • Localized- cancer has not spread outside of the prostate
  • Regional- cancer has spread outside of the prostate to adjacent structures and lymph nodes
  • Distant- cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as bones, liver, or lungs

In conclusion

It is important to remember that the survival rate for prostate cancer is not a definitive prediction; every person is different. The survival rate merely reflects the trends of other men with similar disease stages. Also, it is only relevant at the time of diagnosis and does not take prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, response to treatment, or progression of disease into account. Regardless, you should discuss your risks and concerns with your healthcare provider as they know your history and treatment plan and can help you understand your condition.