The American Cancer Society’s annual Cancer Facts & Figures released this week shows some encouraging trends: death rates for cancer overall continue to decline for both men and women. For prostate cancer that is confined to the prostate or the region around it at diagnosis, five-year survival rates remain close to 100%.
However, the report also reveals that the death rate from prostate cancer is no longer declining as quickly. A main reason is that more men are being diagnosed at an advanced stage: during 2014-2018, the rate of diagnosis of advanced cancer increased by 4%-6% per year. For these patients, the 5-year survival rate is only 31%. New treatments do extend the lives of men with advanced disease, but the key to a successful outcome is early detection and shared decision-making between patients and doctors regarding treatment. We want to see rapid progress in this fight, rather than a “flattening” in the downward trend.
Additionally, the disparities in prostate cancer incidence and death between non-Hispanic Black and white men remain unacceptably high. Black men are about 75% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and over twice as likely to die of the disease. The pandemic also affected prostate cancer screening and care. The downstream effect of millions of missed cancer screenings may not become evident for years.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Survival from prostate cancer is significantly improved when caught early. Catching the disease early involves a conversation between a man and his doctor, as well as a physical exam and PSA testing. We encourage all men to have a conversation with their doctor about PSA screening and a conversation with their family about cancer history.
The prostate cancer community is highly optimistic. Since its peak in 1993, the death rate from prostate cancer has declined more than 50%, a stunning achievement that translates into more birthdays and more time with loved ones. More recently, a highly sensitive type of prostate cancer imaging scan was approved in the U.S. which may help to improve treatment of patients. PCF-funded research has driven many of these advances.
In spite of these successes, too many men are still dying of prostate cancer. PCF stands as the “global public square” of prostate cancer, building new opportunities to develop life-saving research and connecting patients to clinicians and scientists around the world. Please join our efforts in 2022 as we launch expanded conversations for support and education among doctors, patients and the scientific community.
Charles J. Ryan, MD
President and Chief Executive Officer