Prostate cancer is a slow moving disease. You may have no signs of it for years. But the bad part is that by the time the man actually begins to show signs of having prostate cancer he may already be in stage IV. Symptoms may start to show when the prostate is enlarged and it begins to interfere with the urethra, which is the path that the urine follows from the bladder until it reaches the penis.
When Is Prostate Cancer Advanced?
Once the prostate cancer has moved outside of the prostate gland, it is considered advanced. It could spread to the lymph nodes, nearby tissues, other parts of the body and even the bones. It becomes metastatic prostate cancer once it has gone beyond the tissues that are adjacent to the prostate gland.
Even though this type of cancer can metastasize anywhere in the body around 80 percent of the time it moves to the spine, hips, and pelvis. The cells grow very fast and because they started out in the prostate, it is still considered prostate cancer.
What Symptoms Might I Get with Advanced Prostate Cancer?
Depending on where the cancer has traveled to, the symptoms you may have will vary. If you don’t have many symptoms you will have more once the cancer begins to spread again. You may not experience this at all as not everyone’s cancer creates symptoms that affect you on a day-to-day basis. Here are some symptoms you may experience when you have advanced prostate cancer.
- Fatigue: The level of fatigue you feel could go from just being tired to extreme exhaustion. This can really affect everything you do and many men struggle to increase their energy levels. The best things you can do are to eat right and try to get as much rest as you can.
- Pain: When you have metastatic prostate cancer you may or may not experience pain. If your cancer has spread to your bones you may feel the aching stabbing pain of bone cancer. Ask your doctor about steroids, chemo or hormone therapy.
- Urinary problems: Problems with blood in your urine, being unable to control your urine, trouble with your kidneys, and feeling like you are unable to completely empty your bladder are common symptoms with prostate cancer. If you have serious problems urinating, speak to your doctor.
- Bowel problems: With prostate cancer metastasis you may experience problems with your bowels. Some of these problems could include stomach or back pain, constipation, an urgent feel to go to the toilet, diarrhea, and leaking stools.
- Broken bones: If your cancer has spread to your bones you could find them to be weak and end up with fractures. You may need to try radiotherapy which could slow down the spread of the cancer and help keep the damage to the bones under control.
- Sexual problems: Dealing with cancer can be trying enough but engaging in sexual relations may be overwhelming if you have metastatic prostate cancer. Your energy levels are down and you may be in pain, so getting an erection may be difficult.
- Lymphedema: When the cancer has gone into the lymph nodes and it creates a blockage it is considered lymphedema. You may experience pain and swelling in the legs and also in the penis and scrotum areas.
- Anemia: This is a condition where your blood is unable to support the amount of oxygen that your body needs. You may experience this because of damaged bone marrow or from the cancer treatments like radiotherapy or chemo.
- Metastatic spinal cord compression: If your prostate cancer has traveled to your spine you may suffer this symptom because the cancer may be pressing down on the spinal cord. You should speak with your doctor about this or you may end up unable to walk.
- Hypercalcemia: Symptoms of this side effect, which is when you end up with high amounts of calcium in your blood, include confusion, weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting and nausea. Make sure to have your doctor check you for hypercalcemia.
- Eating problems: Loss of appetite is common with people who have cancer, either due to the illness itself or the treatments that are being administered to handle it. Radiotherapy, bisphosphonates, and chemotherapy all can leave you without a desire for food.
Can Advanced Prostate Cancer Be Cured?
While there is no cure for this form of cancer there are things that can be done to reduce the symptoms and extend your life. Here are a few things you may want to consider:
1. Hormone Therapy
This is usually one of the first types of treatment that a doctor will administer. Androgen deprivation therapy or ADT is a hormone therapy that will help to slow the growth of the cancer by depriving the cells of fuel which is what they need in order to grow. Another more extreme treatment is orchiectomy which is removing the testicles surgically. Even though it is surgery, it is the fastest way to cut down the levels of testosterone.
There have been several new breakthroughs in this field, including arbiraterone acetate, which is a new drug and works well in conjunction with prednisone. This combination helps to slow down the spread of the cancer for men who have found that ADT has lost its effectiveness. One other new medication is docetaxel, another chemotherapy drug.
The use of sipuleucel-T helps to boost the immune system so that it works on killing the prostate cancer cells. Vaccines of this nature work to help your body fight infectious diseases.
How Long Can I Live with Advanced Prostate Cancer?
Besides the fact that each case is different, it would be impossible to determine how long someone can live with advanced prostate cancer. The good news is that new drugs and treatments are being discovered every day. Medications that were not available five years ago are keeping more guys alive today. Based on a study by Belgium researchers, the following is the survival rates they have come up with:
Metastatic prostate cancer that does not have bone metastasis:
- One year: 87%
- Five years: 56%
Metastatic prostate cancer that does have bone metastasis:
- One year: 47%
- Five years: 3%
Metastatic prostate cancer that does have bone metastasis and involvement of the skeleton:
- One year: 40%
- Five years: under 1%