What Is The Prostate
The prostate is a small gland that only men have. Normally, the prostate is about the size of a walnut. The prostate is located underneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate makes and stores fluid that is part of semen. This fluid is released from a mans penis during ejaculation.
The male hormone, testosterone, helps the prostate gland work as it should. Nerves to the penis, which are important in producing and maintaining an erection, run very close to the prostate. The prostate completely encircles the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis, called the urethra. If the prostate grows too big, it can block the flow of urine from the bladder, making it hard for a man to urinate.
Faqs About Prostate Cancer That Has Spread To The Bones
Learn what this diagnosis means for your health and your future, and what you can do to feel strong and well supported.
The prostate is a gland the size of a golf ball that sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Its responsible for making the fluid that forms semen. Many men develop cancer of the prostate gland its the second most common cancer among men in the United States. There are several stages of prostate cancer the earliest, when the cancer is still limited to the prostate gland itself, is the easiest to treat.
When the cancer has spread, or metastasized, beyond the prostate gland, its considered advanced, according to the American Cancer Society . When it spreads, its common for cancer cells to reach the bones first. Nine out of 10 men with advanced prostate cancer also have it in their bones.
At this advanced stage, the cancer cant be cured, says Scott T. Tagawa, MD, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. But with treatment, many men can live a long time. There are men Ive been treating for advanced prostate cancer for 10 or 20 years.
Arm yourself with the facts about what happens when prostate cancer spreads to the bones and what you can do to help manage it.
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Can I Survive Advanced Prostate Cancer Whats The Prognosis
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men, according to the National Cancer Institute. While theres no cure, men can live with it for years if they get the right treatment. Each man with advanced prostate cancer is different, of course. You and your cancer have unique qualities that your doctor takes into consideration when planning the best treatment strategy for you.
According to Harvard Medical School, the prognosis for men with advanced prostate cancer is improving because of newer medications that help them get past a resistance to androgen-deprivation therapy that typically develops after a few years of treatment. With these medications, many men are living longer, and a number of men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer are dying with the cancer, not from it.
Promptly treating prostate cancer bone metastases with the newest medication can help change a mans prognosis dramatically, Tagawa says. There are men who do well for decades, he says. Some men can even stop treatment, go on to live many years, and actually die of something unrelated.
Tagawa says that cancer specialists who use sophisticated imaging technologies, like positron-emission tomography scans, have gotten very good at finding even tiny bone metastases, which is valuable in diagnosing and removing early stage metastases.
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Urinary Problems After Surgery
Most men cant control their bladder properly when their catheter is first removed. This is because surgery can damage the muscles and nerves that control when you urinate.You might just leak a few drops if you exercise, cough or sneeze . Or you might leak more and need to wear absorbent pads, especially in the weeks after your surgery.Leaking urine usually improves with time. Most men start to see an improvement one to six months after surgery. Some men leak urine for a year or more and others never fully recover, but there are things that can help and ways you can manage it.
A few men may find it difficult to urinate after surgery . This can be caused by scarring around the opening of the bladder or the urethra .Some men find they suddenly and painfully cant urinate. This is called acute urine retention and it needs treating quickly to prevent further problems. If this happens, call your doctor or nurse, or go to your nearest accident and emergency department.
Watch PaulÃ¢s story for one manÃ¢s experience of managing urinary problems after surgery below.
Sexual problems after surgery
Change in penis size and shape
Changes to orgasm
The seminal vesicles, which make some of the fluid in semen, are removed during surgery. This means you wont ejaculate any more. You may have a dry orgasm instead where you feel the sensation of orgasm but dont ejaculate. This may feel different to the orgasms youre used to.
Homing Of Prostate Cancer Cells To The Bone
Homing and growth of prostate tumor cells in the bone
As described in the text, the specific mechanisms by which tumor cells home to the bone remain unknown, but are thought to occur through factors produced or expressed in both bone and tumor. Integrin Î²1 has been implicated in attachment of prostate cancer cells to the bone epithelium. Cadherin-11 is highly expressed in bone metastases and its knockdown decreases bone homing. Chemotactic factors such as SDF-1 released from the bone are implicated in bone homing of tumor cells. Once Tumor cells reach the bone, the classic vicious cycle occurs, whereby factors from the tumor lead to bone destruction and bone formation, and factors from the bone released in this process promote tumor growth.
Colonization in the bone
Chemoattraction to the bone
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Symptoms That Happen When The Cancer Spreads
When bone metastases occur, there may be new symptoms, like weak bones, spinal cord compression, high blood calcium levels, and stiffness, or pain in the hips, thighs or back. These symptoms can cause extreme feelings of pain and discomfort, such as nerve damage and muscle weakness brought on by spinal cord compression, numbness in the arms, or legs and loss of bladder or bowel control. High levels of calcium can mean vomiting, dehydration, confusion, or abdominal discomfort.
If you experience these symptoms, its important to talk to your doctor about them. Natural remedies or holistic treatment for prostate cancer are options and offer a way to gain control of your health and thrive.
What Are My Treatment Options With Advanced Prostate Cancer
The treatments your doctor recommends will depend on factors specific to you, from your overall health to how advanced your cancer was when it was first diagnosed.
Many men receive ADT, a type of hormone therapy, which deprives the body of the male hormones that the cancer needs to keep growing.
For most men, however, hormone therapy stops working at some point. Alternatives to hormone therapy were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2018, and Tagawa often starts men on these therapies as soon as theyre diagnosed with bone metastases. Other treatment options may be available through clinical trials.
In addition, chemotherapy, surgery, and immunotherapy as well as radiation treatments, like external beam radiation, which directly target bone problems may be considered. Major cancer centers, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, have teams of prostate cancer specialists, as well as sophisticated radiation and other treatment equipment consolidated in one place, which can help with the coordination of care.
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What Is Advanced Prostate Cancer
Advanced prostate cancer is cancer that has spread from the prostate to other parts of the body. It develops when prostate cancer cells move through the blood stream or lymphatic system.
Watch our video about advanced prostate cancer.
You might hear cancer that has spread described as metastatic prostate cancer, secondary prostate cancer, secondaries, metastases or mets. It is still prostate cancer, wherever it is in the body.
Prostate cancer can spread to any part of the body, but most commonly to the bones and lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of your lymphatic system, which is part of the bodys immune system. Lymph nodes are found throughout the body including in the pelvic area, near the prostate.
Advanced prostate cancer can cause symptoms, such as fatigue , bone pain, and problems urinating.
The symptoms you have will depend on where the cancer has spread to. Speak to your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms. There are treatments available to help manage them.
Its not possible to cure advanced prostate cancer. But treatments can help keep it under control and manage any symptoms.
Gleason Score For Grading Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is also given a grade called a Gleason score. This score is based on how much the cancer looks like healthy tissue when viewed under a microscope. Less aggressive tumors generally look more like healthy tissue. Tumors that are more aggressive are likely to grow and spread to other parts of the body. They look less like healthy tissue.
The Gleason scoring system is the most common prostate cancer grading system used. The pathologist looks at how the cancer cells are arranged in the prostate and assigns a score on a scale of 3 to 5 from 2 different locations. Cancer cells that look similar to healthy cells receive a low score. Cancer cells that look less like healthy cells or look more aggressive receive a higher score. To assign the numbers, the pathologist determines the main pattern of cell growth, which is the area where the cancer is most obvious, and then looks for another area of growth. The doctor then gives each area a score from 3 to 5. The scores are added together to come up with an overall score between 6 and 10.
Gleason scores of 5 or lower are not used. The lowest Gleason score is 6, which is a low-grade cancer. A Gleason score of 7 is a medium-grade cancer, and a score of 8, 9, or 10 is a high-grade cancer. A lower-grade cancer grows more slowly and is less likely to spread than a high-grade cancer.
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A New Perspective On Your Health
For many people, survivorship serves as a strong motivator to make lifestyle changes.
People recovering from prostate cancer are encouraged to follow established guidelines for good health, such as not smoking, limiting alcohol, eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress. Regular physical activity can help rebuild your strength and energy level. Your health care team can help you create an appropriate exercise plan based upon your needs, physical abilities, and fitness level. Learn more about making healthy lifestyle choices.
It is important to have recommended medical checkups and tests to take care of your health.
Talk with your health care team to develop a survivorship care plan that is best for your needs.
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Staging And Grading Of Advanced Prostate Cancer
The stage of a cancer describes its size and how far it has spread, based on your test results. Doctors often use the TNM staging system or a number staging system.
A doctor decides the grade by how the cancer cells look under the microscope. This gives an idea of how quickly the cancer might grow or spread. You and your doctors can then talk about the best treatment choices for you.
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What Types Of Testing Should I Expect For Monitoring My Condition
Since metastatic prostate cancer isnt curable, your doctor will most likely set up regular visits to check the cancers location, and to manage any long-term side effects from the cancer or any medication youre taking.
And since treatments for advanced prostate cancer are changing so fast and need to be given in a certain sequence to be the most effective, youll probably have not only a prostate cancer doctor but other specialists taking care of you. Your care team should coordinate closely, say the authors of a major study of such teams published in August 2015 in the journal Annals of Oncology.
Along with regularly testing your prostate-specific antigen levels, your care team may request blood tests that measure such prostate cancer indicators as alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase. Magnetic resonance imaging or PET scans of the spine or other bones can also help identify how your cancer responds to treatment.
If youve had radiation, youre at an increased risk for bladder and colorectal cancer and should get screened regularly for these as well.
The tests youll have and how often youll need them should be customized to you. Your care team will consider your overall health, medications that are safe for you to take, other health conditions you might have, and what stage your cancer was when you were diagnosed.
Advanced Genomic Testing For Prostate Cancer
The most common lab test for prostate cancer is advanced genomic testing, which examines a tumor to look for DNA alterations that may be driving the growth of the cancer. By identifying the mutations that occur in a cancer cells genome, doctors may get a clearer picture of the tumors behavior and be able to tailor a patients treatment based on the findings.
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Why Does Prostate Cancer Happen
The causes of prostate cancer are largely unknown. But certain things can increase your risk of developing the condition.
The chances of developing prostate cancer increase as you get older. Most cases develop in men aged 50 or older.
For reasons not yet understood, prostate cancer is more common in men of African-Caribbean or African descent, and less common in Asian men.
Men whose father or brother were affected by prostate cancer are at slightly increased risk themselves.
Recent research also suggests that obesity increases the risk of prostate cancer.
How Are These Cancers Treated
Different prostate cancers behave in different ways, and they might respond differently to treatments. Treatment can depend on whether there is a mix of cancer types.
Some rare cancers may be treated in a different way to common prostate cancer. For example, hormone therapy does not work for men with small cell cancer and so isnt usually given as a main treatment for this.
Because these cancers are so rare, there isnt enough evidence to say which treatments will work best for all of them. Your treatment will depend on your situation for example, the type of cancer you have and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Your symptoms, and any treatments youve already had, may also affect the treatment youre offered.
If you have any questions about your cancer speak to your doctor or nurse. Theyll be able to explain your test results and talk you through your possible treatment options.
Treatments for localised cancer
If your cancer is contained within the prostate , you may be offered treatment that aims to get rid of the cancer such as surgery or radiotherapy.
Some rare prostate cancers may be more likely to come back after treatment than common prostate cancer. If theres a risk your cancer could spread outside the prostate after treatment, you might be given other treatments before, at the same time as, or after your main treatment.
If you have small cell prostate cancer you might have chemotherapy before another treatment.
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How Does The Doctor Know I Have Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly over many years. Most men with early prostate cancer dont have changes that they notice. Signs of prostate cancer most often show up later, as the cancer grows.
Some signs of prostate cancer are trouble peeing, blood in the pee , trouble getting an erection, and pain in the back, hips, ribs, or other bones.
If signs are pointing to prostate cancer, tests will be done. Most men will not need all of them, but here are some of the tests you may need:
PSA blood test: PSA is a protein thats made by the prostate gland and can be found in the blood. Prostate cancer can make PSA levels go up. Blood tests will be done to see what your PSA level is and how it changes over time.
Transrectal ultrasound : For this test, a small wand is put into your rectum. It gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off the prostate gland. The echoes are made into a picture on a computer screen.
MRI: This test uses radio waves and strong magnets to make detailed pictures of the body. MRI scans can be used to look at the prostate and can show if the cancer has spread outside the prostate to nearby organs.
Prostate biopsy: For a prostate biopsy, the doctor uses a long, hollow needle to take out small pieces of the prostate where the cancer might be. This is often done while using TRUS or MRI to look at the prostate. The prostate pieces are then checked for cancer cells. Ask the doctor what kind of biopsy you need and how its done.
Treatment For Advanced Prostate Cancer
Although advanced prostate cancer cannot be cured, it can be controlled with treatment, sometimes for several years. Treatments can also help relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.
A multidisciplinary team will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This will depend on different factors, like your general health. Your cancer doctor will talk to you about the advantages and disadvantages of these treatments.
The main treatments are:
- Hormonal therapy
Hormonal therapies reduce the amount of testosterone in the body. This may slow the growth of the cancer or stop it growing for a while.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. You may have it with hormonal therapy when you are first diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Or, it can be given when hormonal therapy is no longer controlling the cancer.
Radiotherapy is most often used to shrink cancer that has spread to the bones. External beam radiotherapy uses high energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Its given using a large machine. Radioisotope therapy is a type of internal radiotherapy given as an injection.
Surgery to remove the prostate is not suitable for advanced prostate cancer. Surgery may be used to help control symptoms or to help stabilise a bone that is at risk of breaking.
Your doctor or nurse will usually ask you to sign a form giving your permission for them to give you the treatment. They cannot give treatment without your consent.
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