Background on Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a prevalent cancer diagnosis in American men, with approximately 230,000 men receiving their own diagnosis this year in the U.S. alone. In fact, prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in American men other than skin cancer. The odds of a man getting prostate cancer in his lifetime is 1 in 7. However, prostate cancer is also a very slow-growing disease resulting in only 8% of cases reporting any significant symptoms and while many men will die with prostate cancer (ultimately succumbing from other conditions), only about 1 in 38 men will die from prostate cancer. In fact, there are over 2.5 million U.S. men who have received a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetime who have also survived the disease.
Even more encouraging is the fact that there has been a decline in prostate cancer-related deaths in the U.S. over the last fifteen plus years.
Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is far more prevalent in older men with most diagnoses occurring after the age of 65. In fact, once they reach the age of 50, approximately one-third of men in the U.S. will have microscopic evidence of prostate cancer. And by the time they reach the age of 75, over half of men will experience changes to their prostate that are caused by cancer. However, because of its slow-growing nature, most men never experience any symptoms or any danger to their health.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer begins in the cells, the building blocks that make up tissue. Tissue is nothing more than a layer of cells that work together to perform a specific function. As the body requires new building blocks, cells naturally grow and divide in response. When cells grow old and die, new cells take their place. Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. The body’s way of getting rid of unneeded or abnormal cells is called apoptosis. The process of apoptosis may be blocked in cancer cells. New cells form when the body does not need them and old cells do not die when they should.
Any “leftover” cells that are not needed by the body – and do not die as is our body’s normal process – may form a tissue mass – an abnormal growth that is called a tumor.
Tumors can be benign, meaning they are not cancerous, or malignant, meaning they have become cancerous. While benign tumors are not a health threat and do not spread beyond its place of origin, malignant tumors can spread or metastasize and may be life threatening.
How many people are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year?
A prostate cancer diagnosis is given to approximately 230,000 men in the U.S. each year, making it the second most common cancer diagnosis for American men behind skin cancer.
In most men with prostate cancer, the disease grows very slowly. The majority of men with low-grade, early prostate cancer (confined to the gland) live a long time after their diagnosis. Even without treatment, many of these men will not die of prostate cancer, but rather will live with it until they eventually die of some other, unrelated cause. Nevertheless, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 27,000 prostate cancer-related deaths will occur in 2015.