Keeping an Eye on Cancer: Advice for Prostate Cancer Survivors

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Today, there are more than 3.6 million prostate cancer survivors in the United States. Thanks to reliable diagnostic tests and numerous treatment options now available, nearly 100 percent of men are still alive five years after a prostate cancer diagnosis, 98 percent are alive 10 years after diagnosis, and about 96 percent are alive 15 years after diagnosis.

Men who are prostate cancer survivors need regular follow-up tests to determine whether their prostate cancer has recurred or progressed. According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), most prostate cancer survivors should have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test every six to 12 months for the first five years after active treatment ends, then annually thereafter. A yearly digital rectal examination (DRE) is recommended for some men, although this is not as important as PSA testing.

Prostate cancer survivors also need to be checked regularly for any new cancers that may develop. For example, men treated with radiation therapy, particularly external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), have a slightly higher risk of developing bladder cancer than those who had a radical prostatectomy. The risk of developing colon or rectal cancer may be slightly higher as well. Consequently, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends following cancer screening guidelines for higher risk individuals where they exist. And if any new symptoms develop, such as blood in the urine or rectal bleeding, it’s important to report them to the doctor right away.