How Scary is Prostate Cancer?
A prostate cancer diagnosis is scary; any cancer diagnosis is scary. It changes your identity and the way you think about your body, your health, your life and how you spend your time.
There were times during this ordeal where that seemed a little dramatic. After all, the survival rates for prostate cancer are high - about 88% - just behind testicular cancer and melanoma. The cancers with the lowest five-year survival estimates are mesothelioma (7.2%), pancreatic cancer (7.3%) and brain cancer (12.8%).
The CDC says that out of every 100 American men, about 13 will get prostate cancer during their lifetime, and about 2 to 3 men will die from prostate cancer. Both numbers increase as men age and there's a well-known adage that if you live long enough, you'll get prostate cancer, though something else will probably kill you first. The average age of men at prostate cancer diagnosis is about 66.
I cycled through the stages of grief (more on that in another post), but didn't spend a lot of time feeling scared.That emotion clicked, however, whenever someone told me that their father or another family member had died of prostate cancer. Those conversations were reminders that cancer - even the less serious types - kill people.
I felt a little better when I found out that most of those deaths occurred many years ago before treatment options improved or that those who succumbed had other complicating medical conditions.
Those realizations - or rationalizations - made me feel better or put another way, less scared.
I also looked up prostate cancer deaths vs other causes of death, because for me, odds matter. About 35,500 Americans died from prostate cancer last year. Almost 700,000 died of heart disease, 350,000 died of COVID and 43,000 died in car crashes.
We've probably all lost a friend, family member or co-worker in a car crash or at least know someone who has lost a family member that way. It doesn't stop us from driving and we don't become paralyzed with fear every time we get behind the wheel. We do, however, put on a seatbelt, slow down a bit and when those fatalities are top of mind, we tend to be more careful. That's a survival strategy.
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 269,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and there are 3.1 million men who having been diagnosed at some point in their lifetimes, remain alive today.
I'm blessed to be among them and for today at least, I'm not scared at all.