Prostate Cancer: Prognosis

What is a prognosis?

A prognosis is a calculated guess about how or whether a person will recover from a disease. It's a question many people have when they learn they have cancer.

Making a choice

The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It is up to you to decide how much you want to know. Some people find it easier to cope when they know their prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistics confusing and frightening. Or they might think statistics are too general to be useful.

A doctor who is most familiar with your health is in the best position to discuss your prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean for you. At the same time, you should keep in mind that a prognosis may change. A favorable prognosis can change if the cancer progresses. An unfavorable one can change if a treatment is successful.

What goes into a prognosis

Your doctor will consider all the things that could affect the cancer and its treatment. Your doctor will look at risk estimates about the cancer. These are based on what researchers have found out over many years about thousands of men with prostate cancer.  When possible, your doctor will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours to estimate your prognosis.

If your cancer is likely to respond well to treatment, your doctor will say you have a favorable prognosis. If your cancer is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be less favorable. It is important to keep in mind that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will definitely happen. No doctor can be fully certain about an outcome.

Your chance of recovery depends on:

  • The type and location of the cancer

  • The stage of the disease

  • Your overall health

Understanding survival rates

Survival rates show how many  people live for a certain length of time after being told they have cancer. The rates are for people with a certain type and stage of cancer. Often statistics refer to the 5-year or the 10-year survival rate. That's how many  people  are living 5 years or 10 years after diagnosis. The survival rate includes people at these different stages:

  • Men who are free of cancer

  • Men who have few or no signs or symptoms of cancer

  • Men who are still getting cancer treatment

Most men with prostate cancer live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis. Because the  current statistics for 5-year rates are based on men diagnosed and first treated more than 5 years ago, the outlook could be even better now. Men diagnosed recently often have a better outlook because of improvements in treatment.

What are the survival rates for prostate cancer?

The prognosis is excellent for men with prostate cancer that hasn’t spread. Below are the most recent statistics from the National Cancer Institute. The rates are adjusted to account for some men with prostate cancer dying of other causes.

5-year relative survival rates:

  • Prostate cancer still confined to the prostate: almost 100%

  • Prostate cancer that’s grown just outside the prostate or has reached nearby lymph nodes: almost 100%

  • Prostate cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body: about 28%

  • Prostate cancer for all men combined: about 99% (because most prostate cancer is found at an early stage)

Talking with your health care provider

You can ask your health care provider about survival rates and other information. Remember that statistics are based on large groups of people. They cannot be used to predict what will happen to you. No 2 people are exactly alike. Treatment and how well people respond to treatment varies.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Mortazavi, Amir, MD [nM]
Last Review Date: 3/23/2015
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.