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What Is Metastatic Prostate Cancer?

The male reproductive system.
Prostate cancer tests can be performed by using blood and urine samples.
Pelvic x-rays can be used to check for metastasis of prostate cancer.
Article Details
  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Metastatic prostate cancer refers to a malignancy that is actively spreading from a prostate tumor to other structures in the pelvis and elsewhere in the body. Metastasis occurs when cancerous cells break away from the original tumor and chemically signal other types of cells to develop malignant characteristics. Prostate cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in older men, and the condition is often treatable when it is discovered in the early stages. After metastasis occurs, however, it can be very difficult to battle. A combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other methods is needed to provide patients with the best possible chances of survival.

Doctors are unsure of the exact causes of metastatic prostate cancer. It appears that there may be some type of genetic component since many people have family histories of the disease. Men over the age of 60 who are obese or otherwise in poor health are at the highest risk of getting the cancer. A tumor can grow and begin to metastasize beyond the prostate gland very quickly, sometimes in the span of just a few years or months. Organs, bones, lymph nodes, and soft tissue structures in the pelvis are the most likely sites of metastasis.

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The symptoms of metastatic prostate cancer can include painful urination, ejaculation, and bowel movements. Patients often have very slow, weak urine streams that are traced with blood as well. Lower back and abdominal pain, weight loss, and fatigue are also common. As metastasis progresses, a person may also have bone pain, muscle aches, digestive issues, and swollen lymph nodes in the groin. Major, life-threatening complications can occur if cancer reaches the heart, kidneys, liver, or other internal organs.

A physician can screen for prostate cancer by performing a rectal exam and collecting blood and urine samples for lab tests. A tissue biopsy typically is necessary if a tumor is discovered to confirm that it is malignant. If abnormalities are found in the prostate, pelvic ultrasounds and x-rays are taken to check for signs of metastasis. Very early-stage cancers do not always require aggressive treatment, but a case of metastatic prostate cancer usually is cause for immediate concern.

Metastatic prostate cancer treatment normally consists of surgery to remove isolated tumors and chemotherapy and radiation to combat spreading cancer. In most cases, the entire prostate must be excised to get rid of the initial tumor. Procedures may also be needed to remove or repair damaged tissue in the rectum, lymph nodes, abdomen, or liver. Patients typically receive chemotherapy or radiation treatments as well as hormone-controlling medications for several months. The prognosis after treatment depends on several factors, but many men are able to survive for several years with regular checkups and ongoing medical care.

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