When prostate cancer spreads to other parts of your body, doctors say it is "metastatic" or that it has "metastasized." Metastasis is the medical term for cancer that has spread beyond the place where it started.
Most often, prostate cancer spreads to the bones. It's also common for it to spread to the liver or lungs. It's rarer for it to spread to other organs, such as the brain.
It's still prostate cancer, even when it spreads. For example, metastatic prostate cancer in a bone in your hip is not bone cancer. It has the same prostate cancer cells the original tumor had, and your treatment options are the same as when cancer was only in your prostate gland.
Metastatic prostate cancer is an advanced form of cancer. Although it can't be cured, it can be treated and controlled.
Most men with advanced prostate cancer live a normal life for many years.
The goals of treatment are to:
- Manage symptoms
- Slow the rate your cancer grows
- Shrink the tumor
Some cancers are called "locally advanced." That means the cancer has spread from the prostate to nearby tissue. This is not metastatic cancer, which is cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Many locally advanced prostate cancers are curable.
How Prostate Cancer Spreads
Metastasis happens when cancer cells break away from the original tumor and move to a blood or lymph vessel. Once there, they circulate through the body. The cells stop in capillaries -- tiny blood vessels -- at some distant location.
The cells then break through the wall of the blood vessel and attach to whatever tissue they find. They multiply and grow new blood vessels to bring nutrients to the new tumor. Prostate cancer prefers to grow in specific areas, such as lymph nodes or in the ribs, pelvic bones, and spine.
Most cancer cells that break away form new tumors. Many others don't survive in the bloodstream. Some die at the site of the new tissue. Others may lie inactive for years or never become active.
Chances of Developing Metastatic Prostate Cancer
About 50% of men diagnosed with local prostate cancer will develop metastatic cancer during their lifetime. Finding cancer early and treating it can lower that rate.
A small percentage of men aren't diagnosed with prostate cancer until it has become metastatic. Doctors can tell it's metastatic cancer by taking a small sample of the tissue and studying the cells.