Can Prostate Cancer Kill You?

Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2021

Yes. Like any other cancer, prostate cancer is a potential killer.
Yes. Like any other cancer, prostate cancer is a potential killer.

Yes. Like any other cancer, prostate cancer is a potential killer. However, this is true of the metastasized prostate cancer that has remained undiagnosed for a long time. The disease is vastly curable when diagnosed early. This cancer is less dreadful than other types of cancer due to its low rate of mortality. Most people get diagnosed with prostate cancer in their old age and only one out of 36 men die from it.

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer amongst men in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death. This cancer is slow-growing in nature with relatively fewer chances to spread to other organs and cause metastasis. Due to widespread screening with prostate screening antigen (PSA) test, prostate cancer gets detected most often in its early stages. 92 out of 100 men get diagnosed when the cancer is limited inside the prostate. Digital rectal examination (DRE) is also added to the PSA test as a part of the screening process. The test requires the insertion of fingers into the patient’s rectum to feel any hardness (or extra growth) of the prostate.

Early-stage prostate cancer is easier to treat than an advanced-stage (metastasized) cancer. Almost all men with early-stage prostate cancer survive for 5 years or more. Many survive for 10 to more than 15 years. The chances of survival decrease as cancer spread beyond the prostate. If cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body, only three out of 10 men will survive for 5 years after the diagnosis.

Table. Survival rates of common types of prostate cancer

Survival years

Survival rate

What does the survival rate mean

At least 5 years

99%

99 out of 100 people with prostate cancer can live for at least 5 years after diagnosis.

At least 10 years

98%

98 out of 100 people with prostate cancer can live for at least 10 years after diagnosis.

At least 15 years

96%

96 out of 100 people with prostate cancer can live for at least 15 years after diagnosis.

How is prostate cancer treated?

Doctors evaluate the severity of a patient’s prostate cancer based on three factors:

  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels
  • Gleason score [grading system that describes how much of cancer from a biopsy looks like healthy tissue (lower score) or abnormal tissue (higher score)]
  • Tumor staging
  • The doctor will discuss with the patient each of these factors and how the treatments differ because of them.

With early-stage prostate cancer, doctors generally adopt the following treatment protocol:

  • Active surveillance: Active surveillance is a common method adopted by doctors in the management of prostate cancer. As it is slow-growing cancer, doctors recommend only monitoring early-stage prostate cancers with regular tests to check their progress. No treatment is given during this period. Only if the doctors suspect that cancer is growing and causing discomfort to the patient, then the treatment is initiated.
  • Prostatectomy: Prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate) is the primary treatment of prostate cancer in younger men.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy waves to destroy cancer cells. It is the most preferred cancer therapy for older men or those with other co-existing diseases. It can be delivered to the patient in any of the two ways:
  1. External beam radiation: This involves focusing high-energy waves from an external machine on the tumor.
  2. Brachytherapy: Radiation is administered by placing a radioactive dye in the tumor with the help of either an implant or hollow tube.

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is usually the choice of treatment of metastatic prostate cancer. It is also used for treating patients who are unfit or unwilling to undergo surgery and/or radiation therapy.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/9/2021
References
Tracy CR. Prostate Cancer. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1967731-overview

American Cancer Society. How Is Prostate Cancer Treated? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating.html