The last thing a prostate cancer survivor wants to worry about after their prostatectomy is the odds that their cancer with return over time. Instead, they want to focus on recovering from the procedure and getting back to their “normal” life as quickly as possible. Although there is a chance that the cancer returns—one in four patients experience a recurrence—researchers have found ways to measure this likelihood, removing some of the anxiety that surrounds the anticipation.
A recently discovered mathematical model uses four consecutive PSA level measurements to roughly predict if and when a patient will experience a relapse. These consecutive measurements help doctors understand the growth rate of any cancer cells remaining in the body. The benefit of knowing approximately when a patient will experience a recurrence of cancer is that doctors can predict the ideal time to start treatment, avoiding over and undertreating. It can also allow patients to live a more fulfilling life without the constant worry about when their cancer may return. For many, there is tranquility in knowing what to expect and when to expect it.
Although there are a variety of factors that affect the calculation, the magic of the equation is in the relationship between the amount of energy a cancer cell requires to survive and the energy it needs to duplicate. This is easy to measure because the higher the rate of replication of a tumor cell, the more PSA it produces. By measuring this relationship, doctors can estimate how aggressively the cancer is spreading, if it is, and when it will return to the body.
With four consecutive measurements, doctors can estimate the likelihood and timeframe the cancer may return. Levels generally fall between 0.01 and 0.04, with 0.01 indicating a low chance that the cancer will return within three years while numbers at or above 0.04 indicate a high chance of relapse one year after surgery.
Knowledge is power. When it comes to the chance of prostate cancer relapse, having a better idea of when and if a patient’s cancer will return allows them to make educated decisions about pursuing further treatment. For those who do relapse, a procedure such as HIFU can often be a viable option for treatment. Research continues to make advancements to help prevent and treat prostate cancer.