New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
About 26,000 men will die from prostate cancer this year, making it the second-deadliest cancer for men after lung cancer.
That number is likely to go down in the future, however, because new treatments and medications for prostate cancer have significantly increased the survival rate. According to the most recent data, the American Cancer Society reports a five-year relative survival rate of almost 100 percent, a 10-year relative survival rate of 98 percent and a 15-year relative survival rate of 95 percent.
Relative survival rates “compare men with prostate cancer to men in the overall population,” explains the American Cancer Society. “For example, if the five-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of prostate cancer is 90 percent, it means that men who have that cancer are, on average, about 90 percent as likely as men who don’t have that cancer to live at least five years after being diagnosed.”
Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in American men. The cancer society estimates that there will be about 181,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in 2016. It is rare among men under 40, and the average age for diagnosis is 66.
One major change is a more hands-off approach to managing prostate cancer. “I don’t necessarily believe all men would benefit from treatment. And that’s been a shift in the way we’ve looked at prostate cancer,” says Dr. Shyamal Patel, radiation oncologist at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.
“Five to 10 years ago, people diagnosed with prostate cancer would get operated on if they saw a urologist; they would get radiated if they saw a radiation oncologist,” Patel explains. “Now, more and more people are being closely watched or surveilled. I think this is the best way to manage prostate cancer. People who have more aggressive cancers end up getting treatment while people who have nonaggressive cancers who will not be impacted by their cancer can avoid treatment.”
After a man has received a diagnosis of prostate cancer, he will find that today’s approach to treatment is measured and methodical. If a man has cancer in his prostate it has likely been there for years, growing very slowly, explains the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Instead of prompting a rush to do surgery or radiation, a diagnosis of prostate cancer is likely to generate a discussion regarding surveillance and the pros and cons of treatment.
If you and your doctor determine your prostate cancer needs treatment, there are a wide range of options depending on the type of prostate cancer and its stage. One of the most effective treatments being used at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is brachytherapy, a radiation therapy delivered internally directly into or adjacent to the tumor.
Brachytherapy is divided into low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy (permanent, radioactive seeds) and high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy (temporary catheters)
Low-Dose-Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy is internal radiation transmitted through radioactive seeds that are implanted permanently into the body delivering low doses of radiation over days to weeks.
High-Dose-Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy is internal radiation delivered through small plastic tubes or catheters implanted into the tumor region; high doses of radiation are delivered directly into the cancer over minutes after which the catheters are removed and the patient sent home without anything radioactive inside.
At The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, HDR brachytherapy is offered for treatment of cancers of the skin, head and neck, breast, uterus, cervix and prostate as well as others.
“Brachytherapy is a way to treat cancer from the inside out,” says Dr. Patel. Patients benefit from this type of treatment because the high doses of radiation are able to kill fast-growing cancer cells while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissues.
“There have never been better treatments. There have never been so many men not dying of prostate cancer, and not having bad side effects from treatment,” notes the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
To choose the best treatment for you, the CDC recommends you consult with a cancer specialist about the treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer. Your doctor can explain the risks and benefits of each treatment and their side effects.