How quickly does prostate cancer spread? The formation and spread of cancer is often shrouded in mystery. Many cancer patients may be unclear on how their disease developed and spread. Men diagnosed with prostate cancer, are also often in the dark about the particulars of this mechanism. This is why all men should ask their urologist, “Explain how localized prostate cancer and the metastatic stage of this disease are different, and where can the diseased cells spread to?”
Learn how quickly does prostate cancer spread
Prostate cancer is a prevalent cancer diagnosed in American men, ranking second as a leading cause of cancer among men. Approximately 1 in 8 men will hear they have prostate cancer during their lifetime. The more knowledge men have about this condition, the greater their ability to combat it.
What is the prostate gland?
The prostate is a small, muscular gland found only in men. The walnut-sized gland is situated within a man’s pelvic region in front of the rectum and below the bladder.
The prostate, weighing between 20 to 30 grams or three-fourths to one ounce, envelops the urethra, the slender tube responsible for transporting urine from the bladder through the penis. It is a crucial male reproductive organ that produces prostate fluid, a constituent of semen, thereby playing a significant role in the male reproductive system.
How does prostate cancer form and spread?
Prostate cancer begins when cells within the gland grow abnormally and form a tumor. At the time of diagnosis, a pathologist determines the type and stage of cancer. Depending on the type of prostate cancer and how advanced it is, it will fall into one of these three categories:
- Localized prostate cancer
- Locally advanced prostate cancer
- Metastatic prostate cancer
Here is a look at each one of these three types:
Localized prostate cancer
When the cancer cells are present solely in the prostate gland, it’s called localized prostate cancer. This means the cancer is confined within the prostate gland and has not spread beyond it to other body parts. Localized prostate cancer is typically asymptomatic or only has mild symptoms. Possible symptoms some men may have can include:
- Problems urinating (such as pain, burning, difficulty starting or stopping, or a weak flow)
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain when a man ejaculates
- Blood in the urine
The most common localized prostate cancer is known as adenocarcinoma, where cancer grows inside the cells that make fluid for semen.
Locally advanced prostate cancer
If a few cells have escaped outside of the prostate gland and into nearby tissues like the seminal vesicles or prostate capsule, it’s called locally advanced prostate cancer. Even though cancer cells have spread beyond the prostate gland, they have not spread to distant sites, such as lymph nodes or bones.
Men diagnosed with localized or locally advanced prostate cancer have three major treatment options: active surveillance, surgery, or radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is occasionally combined with hormone therapy; however, surgery rarely is combined with hormonal therapy.
Metastatic prostate cancer
Sometimes cancer cells will spread and grow quickly, spreading to nearby tissue.
Prostate cancer outside the prostate gland, such as lymph nodes and bones, is called metastatic prostate cancer. These cancer cells have escaped the boundaries of the prostate gland. Instead, they have traveled through the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, or the circulatory system, which carries cells that fight infection and disease.
Prostate cancer which spreads to lymph nodes will often spread to other body areas. Once cancer cells access the bloodstream, they can travel and be deposited throughout the body. Metastasized prostate cancer commonly spreads to bones (85% to 95%) and rarely to the liver, lung, or brain.
No matter the location of cancer, the tissue type helps identify where it started. For example, while prostate cancer, like most cancers, can metastasize to other organs, it is still referred to as prostate cancer because it consists of mutated prostate cells.
There are many treatments available for metastatic prostate cancer. Depending on each man’s symptoms, prognosis, goals for treatment, age, and general health, will determine which direction is best.
Treatments for metastatic prostate cancer include:
- Hormone therapy – Shuts down the production of male sex hormones preventing cancer from continuing to spread
- Chemotherapy – Destroys cancer cells or prevents them from multiplying.
- Radiation therapy – Shrinks prostate tumors and kills newly metastasized cancer cells in other areas.
- Immunotherapy – Triggers the immune system to attack cancer cells or helps “boost” immune cells to respond to the cancer cells.
All men should pay attention to any new symptoms that may indicate prostate cancer. At the first sign of prostate cancer, a consultation with their doctor is encouraged. When found early, prostate cancer has a 97-98% survival rate.
Men should also have a baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test at age 40 and a routine PSA test afterward.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.