Of course there’s nothing ordinary about any cancer diagnosis. Each man diagnosed with prostate cancer–and the people who love him–confront an extraordinary life event. Even if it’s localized, slow-growing, and not life-threatening. It’s still cancer.
Yet by many measures, it’s an ordinary cancer. In numerical and statistical terms, prostate cancer is actually quite common. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most widespread carcinoma among men in the United States. One out of six men now living in the US will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during his lifetime.
A new case is diagnosed about every two and a half minutes around the clock. That means more than 240,000 American men will hear “you have prostate cancer” in 2012. That’s equivalent to a city the size of Rochester, New York. And, sadly, more than 28,000 men die from this disease this year, making prostate cancer the second biggest cause of cancer-related deaths among American men, after lung cancer. A nonsmoking man is more likely to get prostate cancer than lung, bronchus, colon, rectal, bladder, lymphoma, melanoma, oral, and kidney cancers—combined.
Ordinary, yet extraordinary. Too common in American society, but always an exceptional impact on each man who is diagnosed. 700 American men a day hear the words, “You have prostate cancer.” And life changes irrevocably for each of them.
What’s the first thing to do? Douglas Adams in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said it best: “Don’t panic!” Then: Take a deep breath. Slow down. There’s plenty of time. Don’t decide anything just yet. Be willing to talk not just with doctors, but also with other guys with the cancer, who may be farther down the same path. Try to learn as much as you can from as many trustworthy sources as you can. And, as the shock subsides a bit, find something to enjoy about each day.