A Brief Background on Prostate Cancer
Over 230,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer among men. In his lifetime, a man has a 1 in 9 chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Thankfully, this disease has a very slow progression, with only about 8% of diagnosed patients reporting symptoms. Many men die with prostate cancer each year, but most die from other conditions: just about 1 man out of 41 will actually die directly from prostate cancer. With over 2.5 million men in the United States surviving a prostate cancer diagnosis, most patients’ prognosis is fairly positive.
Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
The men most at risk for prostate cancer are those over the age of 65. In the United States, one-third of men over the age of 50 will experience microscopic evidence indicating prostate cancer. Over the age of 75, this number increases so that one-half of men experience prostate changes related to this type of cancer. Because prostate cancer is so slow-growing, most men in this category don’t experience any dangers to their health or even symptoms.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer starts in the cells of the prostate. Cells are the building blocks of the body. They form groups that work together and form what is known as tissue. Cells grow and divide in response to the body’s needs. Sometimes this replacement process doesn’t function properly, and the body must eliminate the abnormal cells. This process is known as apoptosis. Cancer cells are abnormal cells that may block the apoptosis process. New cells form rapidly when the body does not require them and older cells that should die don’t. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue, an abnormal growth that we call a tumor.
There are two general kinds of tumors, some are benign (harmless), and some are malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors don’t tend to be a threat to health in part because they do not spread beyond their origin spot. In contrast, malignant tumors metastasize, or spread, and can become life-threatening.
How many people are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year?
Each year, thousands of men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, making this cancer diagnosis second only to skin cancer in the United States. Luckily, most men with prostate cancer experience slow disease progression. The majority of these patients with early diagnosed, low-grade prostate cancer live for a long time after they are diagnosed. Many of these patients will live with prostate cancer until they die of another unrelated issue, even when they do not receive treatment. It is estimated that in 2019 there will be about 174,650 men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer which is a 6% increase from 2018. There will also be an estimated 31,620 deaths from prostate cancer in 2019, a 7% increase from 2018 according to the American Cancer Society.