Men with prostate cancer are living three times longer than they were 20 years ago because of early detection and better treatment, but they have little information on how to cope with it, a report said Thursday.
Despite good detection and treatment options, about 30,000 people will die of prostate cancer in the United States this year, according to the report by the nonprofit Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The five-year survival rate for prostate cancer diagnosed at any stage is 98 percent, the report said. This compared to just over 59 percent in the early 1980s and 64 percent in the late 1980s.
About 84 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are alive at 10 years and 56 percent at 15 years.
Since the cancer is often slow-growing and can be detected early, men have the option of living with it for years or even decades. That prompted the foundation to release the first comprehensive guide to prostate cancer for men, their families and doctors.
'An explosion of information'
“We need this because 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year,” said Leslie Michelson, chief executive officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
“There is an explosion of information.”
Women with breast cancer have the option of seeing a team of experts — an oncologist or cancer expert, a surgeon, and a radiologist — to discuss treatment and other issues.
And there are clear treatment guidelines for most cancers — often surgery, followed by chemotherapy in some cases, radiation in others.
But men with prostate cancer often consult directly with their urologist, who may or may not have expertise in treating prostate cancer.
Diagnosis is not always easy because the blood test used looks for a compound called prostate-specific antigen that is usually, but not always, elevated when a man has cancer.
Once diagnosed, men have many choices for treatment, which often boil down to personal preferences. Side effects like impotence and incontinence are especially unpleasant.
Variety of treatment choices
“It is the most common cancer in America and the treatment choices are some of the most difficult,” Michelson said.
Men with prostate cancer can choose from several types of surgery, radiation or “watchful waiting.”
On top of that, patients can be overwhelmed with information, some of it outdated and some simply wrong.
“Everyone has an opinion and today the Internet allows everyone to express that opinion and it becomes very difficult for an individual,” said Michael Milken, a financier-turned-philanthropist who founded the group.
“This provides something that is readable for the layperson and has been vetted by some of the top scientists. It helps you separate the misinformation,” added Milken, himself a prostate cancer survivor.
The guide advises patients to take several actions:
- Surround yourself with a team of experts.
- Monitor your PSA levels regularly.
- Focus on the facts when choosing your initial therapy.
- Remember that side effects can be kept to a minimum.