Prostate cancer is a cancer of the male reproductive system that involves the prostate gland. The function of the prostate gland is to produce semen which transports and nourishes the sperm. When the prostate gland develops an overgrowth of cells that remains unchecked it produces a cancer. As the cells grow they kill the normal surrounding tissue.
There are three different types of prostate cancer: locally advanced cancer, metastatic cancer and recurrent cancer. Currently the experts don’t know what causes prostate cancer but they believe that growing older and having a family history of the disease will increase your chances of getting it.
Symptoms of the cancer can vary and some men don’t have any symptoms at all. When they do appear they can include waking up at night to urinate, pain or burning with urination, blood in the urine, deep pain or stiffness in the lower back, upper thighs or hips, weight loss, swelling in the legs and feet or having trouble urinating at all.
The definition of metastatic prostate cancer is cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to the lymph nodes in the abdomen or other parts of the body. When the cancer metastasizes it does through a process called angiogenesis. During this process new blood vessels are formed and the malignant cells are able to ‘hitch a ride’ into another part of the body.
Most commonly this cancer metastasizes or spreads to the lymph nodes or to the bones. At this point the cancer cells put down roots and start dividing uncontrollably.
There are two types of metastasis to the lymph nodes – local and distant. In a local spread the two lymph nodes that are on either side of the bladder become infected with cancer cells. If they grow in lymph nodes other than the two that are around the bladder then it is considered a distant metastasis.
Metastasis of prostate cancer can also spread to the bone. Primary cases of bone cancer are rare. People who develop bone cancer are more likely to have a primary site in another area of the body and develop bone cancer as a metastasis. If a person who has prostate cancer then develops bone cancer they don’t now have bone cancer. Instead the cancer is classified according the originating, or primary, site. At this time the patient will have prostate cancer with bone metastasis.
Symptoms of advanced prostate cancer that has metastasized to the bones includes stiffness or frequent soreness in the lower back, hips and thighs. Some will experience more severe pain that others.
In most cases prostate cancer grows very slowly. In fact many men who are diagnosed with the condition die from other causes and not the prostate cancer itself, never reaching the stage of advanced prostate cancer. The slow growth of prostate cancer is one of the reasons why some patient’s chose to use watchful waiting as a treatment option, when the cell type and differentiation lead the oncologist to believe that the cancer will grow slowly and will present no undue threat to the life of the patient.
National Cancer Institute: Metastatic Cancer
CancerCare: Living with MEtastatic Prostate Cancer
MayoClinic: Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer Foundation: Managing Bone Metastases and Pain
Beth Israel Deaconess: Many Options for Men with Metastatic Prostate Cancer but No Cure
New Enland Journal of Medicine: Abiraterone in Metastatic Prostate Cancer with Previous Chemotherapy
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Drug Shown To Significantly Improve Survival In Men With Metastatic Prostate Cancer While Exploring A Potential Biomarker To Measure Treatment Response