What Is Metastatic Prostate Cancer?
Metastatic prostate cancer is cancer that has spread from the prostate gland to other parts of your body.
For example, it may show up as a tumor on your spine or as cancer in your lung. Bone is the most common place for it to spread. But lungs and liver are also common sites. It could also occur, though rarely, in other organs such as the brain.
Having metastatic cancer doesn't mean you have a new kind of cancer. Metastatic prostate cancer in a bone in your hip is not bone cancer. The tumor will have the same type of cancerous prostate cells the original tumor had.
The same is true if the metastatic cancer is in your lung or some other organ. It is still prostate cancer, and your treatment options are the same as when cancer was only in the prostate gland.
Metastatic prostate cancer is an advanced form of cancer. But the term "advanced" has different meanings depending on how it is used.
"Advanced" usually refers to cancer that can't be cured. That doesn't mean it can't be treated and controlled. Most men with advanced prostate cancer live a normal life for many years.
Treatment can be effective 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
For cancer to become metastatic, individual cancer cells need to break away from the original tumor and move to a blood or lymph vessel. Once there, they circulate through the body. The cells finally 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 then need to multiply and grow new blood vessels to supply 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 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 help reduce that rate.
A small percentage of men aren't diagnosed with prostate cancer until it has become metastatic, either because they have no symptoms or the symptoms have been ignored. Doctors can tell it's metastatic cancer by doing a biopsy of the tissue and studying the cells.