Life expectancy for prostate cancer is estimated in five-year survival rates. This refers to how many people will be alive five years after diagnosis. Once the prostate cancer has reached stage 4 and spread (metastasized) to other organs such as the bones, lungs, or liver, the five-year survival rate drops to below 30%.
At stage 4 when prostate cancer has spread to the bones, it is unlikely to be cured, but many patients can live several years with effective treatment. There is no way to predict an exact life expectancy after prostate cancer has spread to the bone. Life expectancy depends on the patient and the specific characteristics of his cancer.
Routine screening tests allow prostate cancer to be detected early, before the cancer has spread to the bone and other organs. When detected early, there are a number of treatment options and a good chance of a cure.
For men with localized prostate cancer, where there is no sign the cancer has spread outside the prostate, and regional prostate cancer, in which the cancer has spread outside the prostate to nearby structures or lymph nodes only, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%.
What Are Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer often causes no symptoms when it's in the early stages but in the later stages, it may start to cause symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
- Problems with urination (frequent urge to urinate, especially at night; slow or weak urinary stream)
- Blood in urine or semen
- Difficulty getting an erection (erectile dysfunction, or ED)
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
- Loss of bladder or bowel control if the cancer presses on the spinal cord
- Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas from cancer that spreads to bones
What Causes Prostate Cancer?
The cause of prostate cancer is not known, but it may be due to inherited or acquired genetic changes.
Risk factors for prostate cancer include:
- Age: increased risk in men after age 50
- Family history
- Gene changes
- Geography: most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean islands
- Race/ethnicity: more common in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races
- Other factors that might increase the risk of developing prostate cancer — though these links are less clear and have not been conclusively proven — include:
How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?
Prostate cancer is diagnosed with a physical examination and some medical tests. The exam consists of a digital rectal examination in which a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to examine. This checks the prostate for:
- Size, texture, and firmness of the prostate
- Lumps, hard areas, or growths beyond the prostate
- Pain when touching or pressing the prostate
Other tests to diagnose prostate cancer include:
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