Your prostate gland is really important for reproductive health, but it can also be affected by cancer. When the cancer spreads, the metastatic cancer survival rate becomes lower, so it’s important to know when to seek medical help.
Prostate cancer is something that affects a large portion of the male population. In 2023, it is estimated that 288,300 new prostate cancer cases will be identified in the United States, accounting for roughly 14.7% of all new cancer reports. While the five-year survival rate of prostate cancer remains high, at 97.1%, some men do develop metastatic prostate cancer. In this case, the cancer starts to spread to other areas of the body, which can result in serious complications. We take a closer look at the symptoms, diagnosis, and how it can be treated.
What Is Metastatic Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer happens when cancerous cells start to grow in the prostate gland. This small gland sits underneath the bladder and plays a role in your reproductive system. In the majority of cases, prostate cancer will usually be localized to this gland. Unfortunately, there are times when the cancer starts to spread.
When you are first diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor may consider waiting and monitoring the progression. If they do have concerns, they may recommend implementing the appropriate treatments.
Metastatic prostate cancer essentially means that the cancer is no longer localized only to the prostate gland. Instead, in this case, the cancer has spread. Sometimes, the cancer spreads to surrounding tissues, such as lymph nodes. However, there are also situations where the cancer spreads from the prostate gland to distant parts of the body.
Metastatic prostate cancer is also sometimes referred to as advanced prostate cancer. Some may also refer to it as stage IV prostate cancer.
How Does Prostate Cancer Spread?
During earlier stages, this type of cancer only affects your prostate gland. Over time, however, especially when the cancer is not constantly monitored, and treatment is initiated at the right stage, the cancer can start to spread.
When cancer spreads, it starts with the breakdown of cancerous cells. They break away from the tumor that has developed in your prostate gland. From here, there are two routes by which the cancer can spread through your body.
The first route is toward the lymphatic system. At this point, the cancer may start to affect your lymph nodes. It is also possible for the cancerous cells that break away from the tumor to enter your blood circulatory system.
What Are The Types Of Metastatic Prostate Cancer?
When metastasis occurs, then some of the most common areas where the cancer travel to include the bones, lymph nodes, liver, and lungs. With this said, the cancer can also spread to other parts of your body, such as the eyes, kidneys, brain, pancreas, and more.
With this said, metastatic prostate cancer will often be classified into two specific types, depending on the severity and where the cells have spread to. If the cells have affected your lymph nodes but not distant body parts, then it will be referred to as IVA. The more severe type is IVB, which refers to cases where distant body parts, such as the lungs or the liver, are invaded by these cancerous cells.
What Causes Metastatic Prostate Cancer?
It’s important to note that researchers and scientists are not exactly sure what causes prostate cancer in the first place. They do know how it happens, however. The process starts with changes to the DNA in cells that are present in your prostate gland. Due to these alterations in their DNA, some cells grow faster and divide at an accelerated rate – and while other cells die, they continue to live on. This causes these cells, which are considered abnormal, to collect together and form what is known as a tumor.
A family history of prostate cancer, obesity, race, and age are some of the main risk factors that have been associated with prostate cancer.
When it comes to metastatic prostate cancer, there is also not a clear view on why exactly cells from the tumor break away and spread to other parts in the body in some men, but not in all. It could be the fact that those whose cancer remains localized have decided to undergo treatment early on. Excessive growth of the tumor itself might also have an impact on cancer cells breaking off and causing metastasis.
Symptoms Of Metastatic Prostate Cancer
During the earlier stages, prostate cancer does not necessarily cause noticeable symptoms. As the disease progress, however, you may start to develop certain problems, with a particular focus on your urinary tract.
Some of the symptoms that you may experience if you have prostate cancer include:
- Urinating difficulties
- Your urine stream has a weak force
- Semen that appears in the urine
- Blood in your urine
- Erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems
These symptoms are all related to the area where the prostate gland is located. It’s important to understand that they can sometimes be similar to benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is why it’s important to report them to your doctor.
When prostate cancer is metastatic, then it spreads. The metastatic prostate cancer symptoms you experience depend on where these cancerous cells spread toward. For example, if they affect your bones, then bone pain is a common symptom you may experience as a result.
Another sign to look out for is unexplained weight loss. This can be something you notice if you have metastatic prostate cancer.
If you have prostate cancer and you are concerned about metastasis of the disease, then it’s a good idea to educate yourself about common areas where the cancer spreads to. This way, you can also research the specific symptoms that are known to signal the development of cancer in those areas, such as your lungs and liver.
Diagnosis For Metastatic Prostate Cancer
Before metastatic prostate cancer treatments can be initialized, it’s important for a diagnosis to be made first. When you first complain about urinary symptoms, your doctor may decide to do a couple of tests. A crucial factor here is to distinguish between benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a condition that causes an enlargement of your prostate gland. It is not cancerous but can still result in urinary symptoms. If your doctor has concerns related to their findings following a few tests, then they may recommend a prostate biopsy.
During this biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed from your prostate gland. The tissue is removed with the help of imaging technology, which ensures the doctor or surgeon collects a sample at the site of concern.
The sample collected from your prostate gland is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
If you are already aware of prostate cancer, then your doctor may regularly perform tests to monitor the progress of the cancerous disease. A diagnosis for metastasis of your prostate cancer can be made based on a number of tests. High PSA levels in metastatic prostate cancer can be used alongside imaging tests to see where the cancer is spreading.
Note that any additional symptoms you experience should be reported to your doctor. This can help them better locate specific regions that are being affected by the spreading of prostate cancer.
How Do Doctors Find Metastatic Prostate Cancer?
If you have metastatic prostate cancer, then it’s important for your doctor to find where the cells are spreading. As the cancerous cells break off from the tumor in your prostate, they can then move through your blood or lymphatic system and affect organs, bone, and other tissues.
Your doctor and healthcare team will likely focus on the most common areas where prostate cancer spreads to first. They can use CT and MRI scans. In the modern day, PET (choline-positron emission tomography), PSMA-PET, and several other imaging tests can also be used to assist with this process.
Additional tests are used to assess your bones and skeleton. This is an important process as there are many cases where prostate cancer spreads to the bones. Your doctor will also focus on investigating your lymph nodes to determine if they are affected by the metastasis of your prostate cancer.
When it comes to targeted metastatic prostate cancer treatments, the provider needs to understand where the cancerous cells are located, as this contributes to the overall success of these treatments when they are initialized.
Treatment For Metastatic Prostate Cancer
There are several treatment options that have been developed to assist with treating metastatic cancer. One thing to note is that metastatic prostate cancer treatments often require a personalized approach. Not every patient is the same, and how the disease spreads in your body may not be the same as in another person’s body.
Following a diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer and identifying the locations affected, you and your healthcare team can work together to determine what the best step forward would be.
One of the main treatments that are generally used in these scenarios includes hormonal therapy. As an incredibly important part of metastatic prostate cancer treatments, this therapy helps to block some of the effects that the hormone testosterone has on the growth of cancerous cells. Testosterone is known for promoting the growth of these cells. By inhibiting this effect, the treatment can effectively reduce the rate at which cancer cells grow and divide.
There are other therapies and treatments that can also be used, which may include:
- Chemotherapy: This is one of the most common treatments that are used in various types of cancers. Chemotherapy introduces your body to drugs that attempt to kill these cancerous cells. Additionally, chemotherapy may also focus on inhibiting the growth of cells that have become cancerous.
- Radiation Therapy: It is also not uncommon for your healthcare provider to recommend the use of radiation therapy as part of your treatment. Radiation therapy is often used alongside chemotherapy in an attempt to kill cancerous cells and get you to the point of remission. High-energy rays are used in radiation therapy, which is targeted specifically to the areas where there are cancerous cells.
- Surgery: There are certain cases where a surgical procedure poses as the most efficient solution when looking at different metastatic prostate cancer treatments. The cancer may start by removing your prostate gland. This can help to prevent more cancerous cells from breaking off and entering your blood circulatory and lymphatic systems.
- Targeted Therapy: In the modern day, there are many new treatments that also focus on helping with the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer. The specific targeted treatment depends on the situation, and a highly personalized approach is necessary in these cases. Systemic radiotherapy, as well as immunotherapy, has shown some potential when it comes to treating this type of cancer.
Taking proper care of your prostate can help to prevent this type of situation, as there are things you can do to reduce your risk of prostate cancer. While you cannot affect the fact that your age and race, as well as genetics, play a part, there are other things to keep in mind. For example, it is known that prostate cancer is more likely to happen in men who are obese. This includes complications, such as metastasis.
By addressing your weight, if you are overweight or obese, you can effectively help to reduce your risk. Even in cases where localized prostate cancer has already been diagnosed, it is important to understand that you can implement these steps into your life to reduce the risk of metastasis.
Taking a high-quality supplement, such as Prostara is the best prostate supplement, can also go a long way in providing protection for your prostate gland. The introduction of antioxidants, for example, helps to fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress. There are studies that have shown a link between high levels of oxidative stress and risk for cancer.
Other than these, taking a closer look at what you eat, how much you eat, and your physical activity levels can also be useful when you are trying to reduce your risk of cancer or make the current cancer treatments more effective.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can people recover from metastatic prostate cancer?
There is no evidence that one can fully recover from metastatic prostate cancer; however, some treatments have been developed that can help to extend the individual’s lifespan while they have this type of cancer.
How long can you live with metastatic prostate cancer?
It depends on how soon the spreading of the cancer is detected and addressed. From the time of diagnosis, the average man can live for up to five to six years. With this said some reports have found that the five-year survival rate among men with metastatic prostate cancer is only around 28%.
What stage of prostate cancer is metastatic?
When your prostate cancer becomes metastatic, which means it has spread to other parts of your body, then you have stage IV cancer. At this point, you can have IVA, which is when only lymph nodes close to the prostate are affected, or IVB, where the cancer has spread to distant body parts.
Can metastatic prostate cancer be cured?
While there is no specific cure for metastatic prostate cancer, it’s important to know that there are cases where it goes into remission. While survival rates fall if the cancer starts to spread, there are also treatments that can help to slow the growth of the cancer.
When you identify metastatic prostate cancer symptoms, it’s important to consult with a doctor. A few tests can help to determine the severity and ensure your care team can develop a countermeasure. Early diagnoses of prostate cancer, prior to becoming metastatic, can also significantly improve the chances of survival. It’s important to not only understand the symptoms but also know how to recognize the treatment that may be most efficient in your case.