Prostate Cancer: Warning Signs and Metastasis

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 27 April 2021

Prostate Cancer

Having a newly diagnosed prostate cancer can be a very traumatic experience. Despite this, remain hopeful as there are many new treatments for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer that has spread to other areas of the body has an almost 100% 5-year survival rate. Here’s what you need to know about your treatment and what to plan in the future.

Containing Cancer

As this form of cancer progresses (or metastasizes, as your doctor might refer to), it usually starts in the tissues or lymph nodes nearest to the prostate gland.  Your chances of survival are higher if it is discovered and treated at this time, which is regarded as a “regional" stage. If the cancer spreads, it would most likely end up in the bones. The odds of surviving decreases to 29% at that stage.

Your doctor will discuss the best treatment plans for you. What you decide would be largely determined by the extent of the cancer’s progression and the presence of signs, if any.

It’s possible you have already undergone surgery or radiation. Those treatments are sometimes used to target prostate cancer when it’s still only in the prostate. Your doctor would almost certainly recommend hormone treatment if your cancer spreads. Typically, this entails taking medication to reduce or prevent the effects of androgen hormones (testosterone and DHT) on cancer cells.

Surgical castration is a similar but seldom used alternative. The testicles, which produce the most of these hormones, are removed by the surgeon. If you do not like the idea of losing them, your surgeon could equip you with silicone sacs that you can implant into your scrotum, to mimic your natural scrotum. They will keep the look and feel the same.

If hormone therapy fails, you will need to consider vaccination therapy. The prostate cancer vaccine is intended to boost your immune system’s capacity to combat cancer cells. Alternatively, the doctor can recommend chemotherapy. It might be a medication you take by mouth, or something your doctor injects into your vein.

If your prostate cancer has spread to your bones, you’ll likely require medication to relieve discomfort, reduce the chance of fractures, and preserve your calcium levels. If they go too high or too low, it may be risky where your doctor may prescribe a medication to help you maintain your bone strength. To control pain, you may consider corticosteroids, possibly with the combination of a pain reliever. Depending on the severity of the pain, you can be prescribed with something from ibuprofen to morphine.

In order to relieve bone pain and destroy cancer cells in your bones, your oncologist may recommend radiation therapy. They could also inject you with a radiation-producing medication. These medications are called radiopharmaceuticals.

Red Flag Symptoms

You might think you’d be able to tell whether the cancer has spread, but this isn’t always the case. The majority of patients with advanced prostate cancer may not show any symptoms or signs.

This highlights the importance of seeing the doctor for follow-up appointments. When the doctor checks your blood and detects high levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, you’re more likely to find out the cancer has spread. They may even discover it by a digital rectal exam, an X-ray, or another test.

You may also experience symptoms that include difficulty urinating or blood in the urine. You may also feel very tired, experience shortness of breath, or lose weight without attempting to do so. If the cancer has spread to the bones, you’re more likely to experience pain. The location of the pain can be determined by which bones are affected. If cancer has spread to the pelvic bones, you may experience hip or back pain.

Living With Cancer

Advanced prostate cancer can have an effect on your daily life regardless of the treatments you pursue. Incontinence (loss of bladder control), fatigue, and erectile dysfunction are also common side effects of treatment. Hormonal treatment for men may trigger hot flashes (similar to what many women experience through menopause) or weight gain. It may even be debilitating if the cancer has spread to your bones.

Any pain or side effects should be reported to the doctor. A full range of medications and procedures are available to make you feel better.

Self-care is part of the essentials: take naps to combat fatigue and aim to get some light exercise, such as walking, to maintain your energy levels. Being active can also help you lose weight, particularly if you combine it with some strength training. Consult the doctor first to ensure that exercising is safe for you. They might recommend that you see a physical therapist.

Sources

Referenced on  10.4.2021

  1. American Cancer Society: “Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer;"  “How is Prostate Cancer Treated?;"  “Hormone (Androgen Deprivation) Therapy for Prostate Cancer;"  “Preventing and Treating Prostate Cancer Spread to Bones;" “Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer;"  “Survival Rates for Prostate Cancer;" and “Vaccine Treatment for Prostate Cancer."
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