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Advanced Prostate Cancer: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of advanced prostate cancer?

  • Difficultly urinating if the cancer has enlarged the prostate; this can be a symptom of early or advanced disease and should prompt an evaluation by your doctor.
  • Weakness from anemia if the prostate cancer is disrupting the production of red blood cells in bone marrow
  • Pain, especially when the cancer has spread to the bones
  • Fractures if bones are severely weakened

Men who notice early symptoms such as difficulty urinating may have more treatment options than those who notice symptoms only after cancer has spread to the bones.

What can be done to relieve the symptoms of bone metastases?

Drugs called biphosphonates (Actonel, Zometa, and others) can help make bones stronger and prevent fractures. Doctors sometimes perform surgery to support affected bones. Plus, radiation therapy directed at the bone can reduce pain caused by bone metastases.

A newer noninvasive procedure uses MRI scanning to focus the energy from ultrasound in order to destroy nerve endings in the bone around the tumor. This can provide relief from bone pain with a low risk of complications. Other treatments include the use of extreme cold or electrical currents to reduce or destroy the tumor.

Can patients with advanced prostate cancer enroll in clinical trials?

Yes! 

Major organizations such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend this course of action for all cancer patients. Researchers are exploring several new ways of diagnosing, monitoring, and treating prostate cancer. Clinical trials test the safety and effectiveness of these new methods and treatments. There are risks and limitations in every clinical trial. For example, you may be assigned to the "control" group, and not get the new medicine. In that case, the control medicine is the best therapy already available. Placebo -- or ineffective treatment -- is rarely if ever used anymore, and if it will be used in the trial, you would be informed. Keep in mind that the new medicine under investigation in the clinical trial may not work. But clinical trials also offer early access to new treatments. 

You can find out more about clinical trials by asking a medical oncologist, inquiring at an academic medical center, or browsing a clinical trials listing service. The National Institutes of Health lists clinical trials at www.clinicaltrials.gov.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD, FACP on July 31, 2013

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