Survival rates tell you what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some men will want to know the survival rates for their cancer, and some men won’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.
What is a 5-year survival rate?
Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 90% means that an estimated 90 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare men with prostate cancer to men in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of prostate cancer is 90%, it means that men who have that cancer are, on average, about 90% as likely as men who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.
But remember, all survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.
Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story
Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of men who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular man’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:
- The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at men who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, men who are now being diagnosed with prostate cancer may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
- These statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They don’t apply to cancers that later come back or spread, for example.
- The outlook for men with prostate cancer varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are higher for men with earlier stage cancers. But many other factors can affect a man’s outlook, such as age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. The outlook for each man is specific to his circumstances.
Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.
Survival rates for prostate cancer
According to the most recent data, when including all stages of prostate cancer:
- The 5-year relative survival rate is almost 100%
- The 10-year relative survival rate is 98%
- The 15-year relative survival rate is 95%
Keep in mind that just as 5-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed and first treated more than 5 years ago, 10-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed more than 10 years ago (and 15-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed at least 15 years ago).
Survival rates by stage
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) maintains a large national database on survival statistics for different types of cancer, known as the SEER database. The SEER database does not group cancers by AJCC stage, but instead groups cancers into local, regional, and distant stages.
- Local stage means that there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the prostate. This corresponds to AJCC stages I and II. About 4 out of 5 prostate cancers are found in this early stage. The relative 5-year survival rate for local stage prostate cancer is nearly 100%.
- Regional stage means the cancer has spread from the prostate to nearby areas. This includes stage III cancers and the stage IV cancers that haven’t spread to distant parts of the body, such as T4 tumors and cancers that have spread to nearby lymph nodes (N1). The relative 5-year survival rate for regional stage prostate cancer is nearly 100%.
- Distant stage includes the rest of the stage IV cancers – cancers that have spread to distant lymph nodes, bones, or other organs (M1). The relative 5-year survival rate for distant stage prostate cancer is about 28%.
Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any individual man. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor to better understand your situation.
Last Revised: 03/11/2016