The How’s and Why’s of Prostate Cancer Recurrence

Why and how does prostate cancer return? It’s important to face your fears and learn the facts.

With an overall five-year survival rate of close to 98 percent, prostate cancer is considered one of the most “curable” forms of cancer. However, many men continue to have the fear that their cancer persists long after the cancer itself may be gone. It is human nature to wonder “What if it comes back?” Some research studies done have estimated that as many as 70 percent of cancer patients are plagued with anxiety over a relapse. Patients should discuss these feelings, deal with them, and have a conversation with their doctor about their risk level.

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer Recurrence

Before patients start worrying they need to understand what their risk of recurring prostate cancer really is. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, about 90 percent of all prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in the local or regional stages, when the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent. The majority men will be cancer-free throughout that time and beyond. Around 20 to 30 percent of cases, the cancer will relapse after the five-year mark.

If prostate cancer does come back, it may return in (or close to) the site of the original cancer, which is called a local recurrence. The cancer may also show up in the bones or other distant places, which is called a metastasis.

Listed below are risk factors that can help determine if a man’s prostate cancer is likely to return:

• The stage of your cancer at diagnosis. The higher the stage of prostate cancer at diagnosis, the greater the likelihood of a recurrence.
• Where the cancer spread. If your prostate cancer spread to the lymph nodes, you may be at an increased risk of recurring prostate cancer.
• The tumor itself. The larger the tumor at diagnosis, the greater the risk of a prostate cancer recurrence.
• Your Gleason score. This system measures what type of cancer cells are in the tumor, and how aggressive they are. The higher the score, the greater the risk of prostate cancer recurrence.

At the time of the initial diagnosis there are also certain warning signs that the prostate cancer could recur. Doctors might find certain measures of aggressiveness during the biopsy that initially diagnoses prostate cancer, and these could indicate the likelihood of a recurrence. Very aggressive tumors have more tendency to recur.

If Prostate Cancer Returns There Are Treatment Options Available

The prostate cancer treatment that is best for you will depend on the treatment you first received to battle the cancer. Hormone therapy, radiation and chemotherapy are all options to treat recurring prostate cancer.

Dealing With Your Fear

Make sure to discuss your concerns about prostate cancer recurrence with your doctor. It’s important not to let fear and anxiety lead to depression and other emotional and mental health issues. Talking about your concerns and being educated on your risks and treatment options can help in preparing for what may happen.