Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 75 and older. The prostate gland is a small, walnut-shaped organ that sits between the bladder and rectum.
In many cases, prostate cancer grows very slowly; that many men do not know that they have the disease. In other men, however, the disease metastasizes (spreads) to organs outside of where it originated.
There are two types of metastatic prostate cancer:
- Local metastasis: Prostate cancer with local metastasis means that the cancer has spread to other organs within the pelvis. This usually means the local lymph nodes, but can include any organ or structure in the pelvis.
- Distant metastasis: Distant metastasis means that the prostate cancer has spread beyond the pelvis. The bones, spine, brain, liver, and lungs are common sites of cancer metastasis.
Symptoms of prostate cancer can include:
- urinary urgency
- difficulty starting or stopping urination
- weak or interrupted urine flow
- painful or burning urination
- blood in the urine or semen
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult with their doctor as soon as possible. While many other conditions can cause similar symptoms, it is important to rule out prostate cancer.
Once a person has been diagnosed, the signs of metastasis will vary depending on the where the cancer spreads and how quickly it is growing.
For example, a person showing local metastasis to nearby lymph nodes may not experience any change in symptoms.
However, a person with metastasis to the bones may experience bone pain.
Other symptoms of metastasis (spreading) may include:
- feeling unwell
- reduced appetite
- weight loss
- swelling in the legs or feet
Prostate Cancer: Treatments
There are many types of treatments available. A doctor or oncologist will develop a treatment plan that takes into account the individual’s symptoms, prognosis, goals for treatment, age, and general health.
Chemotherapy is a type of medication that destroys cancer cells or prevents them from multiplying. It usually is a combination of two or more drugs that are administered intravenously, injected, or taken as a pill.
Immunotherapy is a type of medication that modifies the body’s immune system to find and destroy cancer cells.
Treatment that has spread to the bones includes drugs such as zoledronic acid (Zometa) and denosumab (Xgeva).
Treatment for local metastatic cancer may also include radiation therapy.
Treatment can cause some serious side effects, including:
- urinary incontinence
- erectile dysfunction
- hair loss
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
There are several medications available that treat these side effects.
Prostate Cancer: Prognosis
The prognosis for advanced prostate cancer depends on where the cancer has spread and how aggressively it is growing.
According to the American Cancer Society, these are the survival rates:
- Local prostate cancer without spread has a 5-year survival rate at nearly 100 percent.
- Prostate cancer with local spread also has a 5-year survival rate at nearly 100 percent.
- Prostate cancer with distant metastasis has a 5-year survival rate of around 29 percent.
These are general statistics; it is important for a person with prostate cancer to speak to their doctor about their specific case.
Prostate Cancer: Outlook
If prostate cancer is diagnosed before it has spread, or if it has only spread to nearby structures, the survival rate is excellent.
This makes routine screening and early diagnosis extremely important.
Men over the age of 50 should speak to a healthcare professional about the different screening options and which one is most appropriate for them.
Don’t wait, get tested.