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Mitt Romney's prognosis is good, but what is the prostate cancer survival rate?

A source told CNN that Mitt Romney was treated for prostate cancer during summer 2017.
what is the prostate cancer survival rate mitt romney
Photo: Getty Images

Former presidential candidate — and possible future Senate candidate — Mitt Romney battled prostate cancer last summer, a source told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“Mitt Romney was treated over the summer for prostate cancer. He was treated surgically by Dr. Thomas Ahlering at UC Irvine Hospital in California. His prognosis is good; he was successfully treated,” the source told Tapper, according to CNN. But what exactly was the politician up against? What is the prostate cancer survival rate, anyway?

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate gland, a small walnut-sized gland behind the bladder that’s responsible for producing seminal fluid in men.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer occurs when cells in the gland start growing uncontrollably. The most common type of prostate cancer is known as adenocarcinomas, though other, rarer types include sarcomas, small cell carcinomas, neuroendocrine tumors and traditional cell carcinomas.

What is the prostate cancer survival rate?

Prostate cancer is most noticeable — and most dangerous — when it grows quickly. It can grow much slower, though — so slow that some men can have it and not even know it. The American Cancer Society says that autopsies conducted on men who died from other causes also had prostate cancer and didn’t know it.

It’s also the most common type of cancer in men, other than skin cancer. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, more than 161,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017. Black men are 74 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than non-Hispanic men, though the exact reasons why aren’t understood.

Black men are twice as likely as any other group to die from prostate cancer. According to the ASCO, prostate cancer is the third leading cause of death in the United States with almost 27,000 deaths in 2017.

The number of men who develop prostate cancer continues to decline, though survival rate depends on the stage of the disease. So, what is the prostate cancer survival rate? According to the ASCO, the five-year survival rate — or the percentage of men who live at least five years after their diagnosis — is almost 100 percent if the cancer stays in the prostate. After 10 years, that number goes to 98 percent — and 96 percent live an additional 15 years.

If the cancer metastasizes, or spreads, the five-year survival rate drops to 29 percent.

Romney isn’t the only politician battling a serious disease: Arizona Sen. John McCain continues to fight glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. His health was described as “frail” in December, but his office said he looked forward "to returning to Washington in January."

That date hasn’t been set, though he continues to be active on Twitter.