Prostate Cancer, Advanced or Metastatic - Topic Overview

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This topic is about prostate cancer that has spread or come back after treatment. For information on prostate cancer that has not spread outside the prostate (localized prostate cancer), see the topic Prostate Cancer.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a group of cells that grows faster than normal in a man's prostate gland. It can spread into other areas and kill normal tissue.

The prostate gland camera.gif sits just below a man's bladder. It makes part of the fluid for semen. In young men, the prostate is about the size of a walnut. It usually grows larger as you grow older.

The cancer may be one of these types:

  • Locally advanced prostate cancer. This is cancer that has grown through the outer rim of the prostate and into nearby tissue.
  • Metastatic prostate cancer. This is cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to the lymph nodes camera.gif or other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent prostate cancer. This is cancer that has come back after it was treated. The cancer can come back in the prostate, near the prostate, or in another part of the body. If it comes back in another part of the body-often the bones-it is still called prostate cancer, because it started in the prostate.

What causes prostate cancer?

Experts don't know what causes prostate cancer. But they believe that getting older and having a family history of prostate cancer raise your chance of getting it.

What are the symptoms?

Sometimes there are no symptoms of either locally advanced or metastatic prostate cancer.

When they do appear, symptoms of locally advanced prostate cancer include:

  • Waking up many times during the night to urinate.
  • Having trouble starting your urine stream, having a weaker-than-normal stream, or not being able to urinate at all.
  • Having pain or a burning feeling when you urinate.
  • Having blood in your urine.
  • Having a deep pain or stiffness in your lower back, upper thighs, or hips.

Symptoms of metastatic prostate cancer may include:

  • Bone pain.
  • Weight loss.
  • Swelling in your legs and feet.

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How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

A blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is the most common way to check for prostate cancer. A higher level of PSA may mean that you have prostate cancer or that your prostate cancer has come back.

Your doctor also may do a biopsy. In this test, your doctor takes samples of tissue from your prostate gland or from the area where the cancer may have spread and sends the samples to a lab for testing. A biopsy is the only way to know for sure that you have prostate cancer.

If you have had prostate cancer before, your doctor may also order a bone scan, CT scan, or MRI to see if it has come back or spread.

Learning that you have cancer that has spread or come back can be very hard. Some people find that it helps to talk about their feelings with their family and friends. You may also want to talk with your doctor or with other people who have had this kind of cancer. Your local American Cancer Society chapter can help you find a support group.

How is it treated?

Your treatment choices depend on your overall health, how fast the cancer is growing, and how far it has spread.

Locally advanced prostate cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or a combination of these.

Treatment of metastatic cancer focuses on slowing the spread of the cancer and relieving symptoms, such as bone pain. It also can help you feel better and live longer. Treatment may include hormone therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.

Men over age 80 or those with other serious health problems may decide not to have treatment except for what is needed to treat any symptoms (watchful waiting).

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about prostate cancer:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Living with prostate cancer:

End-of-life issues:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

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