The news is good about prostate cancer. Although it is the third most often diagnosed cancer in men in the United States, following skin and lung cancers, 98 percent of sufferers are still alive five years after diagnosis. This is a vast improvement over the 64 percent rate of the late 1980s. Although the rate drops to 91 percent ten years after diagnosis this is still an impressive survival rate considering that the group includes men who were first diagnosed with advanced cancer and many older men of whom an appreciable number have other health issues.
The news can be very good indeed; for example, 99 percent of men with Gleason 6 organ confined prostate cancer have not had any relapse (biochemical failure) a decade after surgical treatment. Further, it is very unlikely that these men will experience a recurrence after that time.
Despite the highly encouraging statistics many men and their families are initially devastated by the diagnosis. Although every man and every family member has a very individual reaction there are some common elements that many men share.
Don’t go it alone. Whether you’re an average man or consider yourself emotionally tough you stand to benefit from having people to lean on and use as a sounding board to ensure that your decisions regarding your disease are reasonable. There are many likely candidates to help you through this period. They range from family and friends to your physician or your clergyman. Virtually every community has a number of prostate cancer support groups that provide access to information and the shared experiences of others who have gone through exactly what you are facing. And there is a tremendous amount of information about this disease on the internet although as with every other type of on-line information you will need to do some work to ensure that it is is accurate.
Modern therapies are achieving impressive results. In this age of PSA testing men tend to be diagnosed at an early stage, frequently before their cancer has spread from their prostate or the immediate area. At this stage, treatment is usually quite effective and very frequently completely curative. Sexual side effects of treatment, where they occur, may be mitigated by oral medications, injection therapy or even penile implants. And incontinence (beyond the recovery period), once the bane of prostate treatments, is now the exception rather than the rule.
There are several proven treatments for prostate cancer and a number of others whose value has not been as well proven. The treatments that most men resort to today are radiation therapies (of whom several types exist) and surgery (with the da Vinci robotic prostatectomy method being the most prevalent today).
Men may do well in one or both of these vital areas while some may have an impaired recovery. Factors that have an influence on the ultimate recovery of urinary and sexual functions include the extent of, and techniques used in the surgery, the particular physiological makeup of the patient and the skill and experience of the surgeon.
Privacy issues – some men are very open with family, friends and coworkers about their diagnosis while others react with varying degrees of isolation.
Make a treatment decision that you are comfortable with – By the time most men finish doing their “homework” a treatment decision (or even the decision to defer treatment) will have assumed a certain shape in their mind. It will be the result of time spent speaking with their support crew of family and friends, hearing or reading about prostate cancer survivors’ experiences, reading the information available in print and on the internet, speaking to physicians about the best course of action to take and doing a fair amount of thinking. By the time most men move forward with their decision much of their initial fear and uncertainty has vanished and the road ahead assumed at least some sort of reassuring outline Over a longer span of time subsequent to treatment most men express a fairly high degree of satisfaction with the treatment decisions they made.