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June 29, 2023

3 essential things to know about prostate cancer

In Prostate Cancer, For Members

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Prostate cancer is the most common cancer (other than skin cancer) among American men.1 About one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.1 Yet as common as this cancer is, many people still don’t know a lot about it. Here are three key facts.

1. The risk of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. 2

Age is the most common risk factor for this cancer.3 And more than two-thirds of new cases occur in men older than 65 years old.2 Other factors that may increase your risk include being African American or having a father or brother who developed the disease.2

2. Not every man needs to be tested for prostate cancer.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by the prostate gland that can be detected on a blood test, and if elevated, may indicate an abnormality.4,5 The PSA test can often find prostate cancer early before symptoms arise.4 But it’s not foolproof. A high PSA level could be a sign of prostate cancer, but it might also be caused by a prostate infection, benign enlargement of the prostate, or other noncancerous causes.5,6 And some men with low PSA levels turn out to have cancer, too.4

Researchers are working to develop better screening methods for prostate cancer.7 In the meantime, the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that men talk with their health care providers and make informed choices about whether PSA testing is right for them.8,9

3. The outlook is excellent for most men with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can be life-threatening once it spreads to distant parts of the body.10 But when it’s caught early, the five-year relative survival rate is nearly 100%.10 This means that, on average, men with early-stage prostate cancer are nearly as likely as those without cancer to have long lives.10 You can see the proof all around you: here are more than 3.1 million prostate cancer survivors in the U.S. today.1

What if treatment isn’t required?

Some men with prostate cancer never need any treatment.11 In many cases, prostate cancer grows quite slowly. Older men and those in poor overall health may opt to forgo treatment if they have slow-growing prostate cancer. Instead, their health care provider may recommend watchful waiting or active surveillance. This is where the provider will continue to actively monitor the prostate cancer. If anything changes, treatment may be reconsidered.11

References

  1. American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer. cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-key-statistics. Updated January 12, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  2. American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer Risk Factors. cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Is at Risk for Prostate Cancer? cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/risk_factors.htm. Updated February 7, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  4. American Cancer Society. Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer. cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/tests.html.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Is Screening for Prostate Cancer? cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/screening.htm. Updated August 25, 2022. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  6. S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/prostate-specific-antigen-psa-test. Updated August 31, 2022. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  7. National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test. cancer.gov/types/prostate/psa-fact-sheet. Updated March 11, 2022. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  8. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Early Detection. cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/acs-recommendations.html. Updated February 24, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  9. S. Preventive Services Task Force. Prostate Cancer: Screening. www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendation/prostate-cancer-screening. Updated May 8, 2018. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  10. American Cancer Society. Survival Rates for Prostate Cancer.. cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-survival-rates. Updated March 1, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  11. American Cancer Society. Observation or Active Surveillance for Prostate Cancer. cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/watchful-waiting.html. Updated August 1, 2019. Accessed June 22, 2023.

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