Prostate Cancer Recurrence

Cancer recurrence is the return of cancer after a period when no cancer cells could be detected. A fear of recurrence is normal for all cancer survivors.

A young asian doctor speaking with an older male on a couch

The completion of prostate cancer treatment can bring both relief and worry. When caught early, initial treatment may mean you are considered free of disease. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will live cancer-free for years, and some even the rest of their lives. But you may also feel worried, anxious, or fearful that your cancer may come back.

Cancer recurrence is the return of cancer after a period when no cancer cells could be detected in the body. A fear of recurrence is normal and reasonable for all cancer survivors. It is important to remember that although you cannot control whether your cancer recurs, you can control how much you let the fear of recurrence affect your life.

Fortunately, the five-year survival rate for men with localized prostate cancer is nearly 100%. However, up to 40% of men will experience a recurrence, so it is important to understand your risk for recurrence.

When a man has treatment for prostate cancer, his PSA level may drop significantly. Regular PSA testing is one of the tools your treatment team will use to determine whether or not the treatment is working.

Biochemical recurrence

When PSA levels rise to a certain threshold after prostate cancer treatment, this is known as biochemical recurrence. This means that some cancer cells have survived and are producing PSA. If this happens, the doctor will order additional tests and make recommendations for how to manage your disease. Just as you did at the time of diagnosis, consider a second opinion and seeking care from a multidisciplinary team. Click here to learn more about choosing your healthcare team.

There are differing opinions in the medical community about how best to manage a biochemical recurrence from immediate treatment to delayed treatment. Many factors will need to be considered, including the characteristics of your initial cancer, the rate of your PSA doubling time, your initial treatment option, and your personal health. Talk with your healthcare team to make a plan.

Headshot of Dr. Alicia Morgans

Learn about biochemical recurrence

Dr. Alicia Morgans, a medical oncologist specializing in prostate cancer care, speaks on biochemical recurrence in the video below.

Tips for coping

It is common to experience some fear about your cancer recurring. Accept that you are going to experience some fear and focus on finding ways to help yourself manage the anxiety or depression.

See our mental health page for more tips on coping with prostate cancer, the fear of recurrence, and finding resources that can help.

Preview of an informational graphic about diagnostic imaging

Recurrent disease

Our partners at Lantheus have created a wonderful resource that can be helpful to learn more about recurrence.