Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in the United State. At some point during their life, one in six men will be diagnosed with the disease. While many men die from prostate cancer each year, research has shown that it can be cured when it is caught and treated at an early stage. The earlier it is detected, the higher the associated percentage of prostate cancer cures. Moreover, even with treatment at later stages, quality of life can be increased and survival extended.
Stage I prostate cancer is when the cancer is contained within the prostate and the cells have a low Gleason score. (The Gleason score relates to the likelihood the cancer will spread; the lower the score, the less likely the cancer is to spread). Stage II prostate cancer is also contained within the prostate, but the cells show a higher Gleason score. Survival rates for these early stages of prostate cancer are nearly 100 percent.
Some of the prostate cancer cures used in early stage cancer are radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy. Both of these prostate cancer cures have the same efficacy rates, but differ in technique and potential side effects. The first of the mainstays of prostate cancer cures, radical prostatectomy, is the surgical removal of the prostate. There are many different techniques used for radical prostatectomies, but newer techniques aim to reduce the common side effects of impotence and incontinence.
The next mainstay of prostate cancer cures, radiation therapy, has been shown to be just as effective as radical prostatectomy, but carries a higher incidence of long term impotence. Regardless of whether internal pellet radiation or external beam radiation is used, almost 80% of patients will become impotent within a year of treatment.
With stage III prostate cancer, where the cancer has spread beyond the edge of the prostate to nearby tissues, similar treatments can be used in an effort to cure the cancer. However, the cure rates are lower in patients with stage III cancer - averaging between 70 and 80 percent. Stage IV prostate cancer, where the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, often the bones, is often difficult to cure, but the treatments used can extend a patient's life and improve symptoms.
Since prostate cancer has such high cure rates when it is caught and treated early, it stands to reason that proactive preventative screening is the most important step to take in preventing prostate cancer deaths. In addition to using screening as a method of preventing prostate cancer deaths, patients can also lower their fat intake, stop smoking and stay active to help lower their risk.
Until further research finds specific causes for prostate cancer, preventative screening remains the best defense. If you're over 50 or have a relative with prostate cancer, be sure to see your doctor regularly for a PSA test and digital rectal exam. While these tests may be inconvenient or even embarrassing, they are very worthwhile.