While you must have heard about prostate cancer at some or the other point in your life, what do we mean by the term advanced prostate cancer? Men, in particular, will be familiar with the dangers of prostate cancer and how to prevent it. Advanced prostate cancer means different things to different people. To begin with, prostate cancer refers to a group of cells in a man’s prostate gland that grows faster than normal. Cancer can spread to other areas as well and destroy the healthy tissue in that region. The prostate gland is located just beneath the balder in men.
The prostate gland is responsible for making a part of the fluid for semen. It is normal for the prostate to enlarge as you grow older. In the earlier stages of prostate cancer, you may not be able to even notice any of the signs and symptoms. Therefore, screening for prostate cancer is important to determine the stage of prostate cancer. Symptoms may sometimes become visible when prostate cancer has already reached an advanced stage. Advanced prostate cancer is known as metastatic cancer. This means that cancer has spread to other parts of the body as well, well beyond the prostate gland. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of advanced prostate cancer so that you can identify and get it checked by your doctor at the starting stage itself.
What is a Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer has become one of the most commonly occurring cancers in men in recent times. When a group of cells grows faster than normal in the prostate gland, it is known as prostate cancer. This type of cancer can spread to other regions as well and as it spreads, it begins to kill the healthy tissue in the prostate area. The prostate gland is located just underneath the bladder and is responsible for making a part of the fluid for semen. With time, as a man grows older, the prostate also tends to become larger in size.
What is Advanced Prostate Cancer?
Advanced prostate cancer, also known as metastatic cancer, refers to a situation where the cancer spreads from the prostate to other parts of the body, well beyond the prostate gland. Usually, the cancer spreads to the bladder, rectum and/or bones. Prostate cancer can also spread to your lymph nodes, lungs, liver and other body tissues.
Signs & Symptoms of Advanced Prostate Cancer
Regardless of whether you have been diagnosed of prostate cancer or whether you are in treatment already, it is important for everyone to know and recognize the signs and symptoms of Advanced Prostate Cancer. Keep in mind that cancer behaves differently in different individuals, and therefore, you may not experience the symptoms in the same way as other person does.
Let us take a look at some of the most common signs and symptoms of advanced prostate cancer and how, by being a little vigilant, you can identify them.
Extreme Tiredness: Vital Sign of Advanced Prostate Cancer
There is a difference between fatigue and just feeling tired generally. Fatigue is when you experience a feeling of extreme tiredness that refuses to go away. No amount of rest makes the feeling of tiredness go away. This is usually one of the first signs men will notice of advanced prostate cancer. Men would be surprised to see how tired they actually start to feel and by the huge impact this level of fatigue has on their lives. Not only will fatigue affect your mood, but it reaches a level where even doing everyday tasks becomes difficult. While fatigue can be caused by the actual prostate cancer, even the treatments for the cancer cause fatigue. Besides, the accompanying stress, anxiety and lack of physical activity also contribute to the feeling of fatigue.
How to Cope with Fatigue Caused By Advanced Prostate Cancer?
There are several things you can do to better manage your fatigue due to advanced prostate cancer. These include:
- Indulging in some level of physical activity.
- Talking to your doctor.
- Planning your tasks ahead of time and taking things slowly.
- Asking for help with whatever you need, don’t feel embarrassed or shy. You will be amazed to see how many people step up to help.
- Seeking help for your emotional problems.
- Make time to relax.
- Sort out your sleeping schedule.
- Eat well and drink plenty of water.
Many patients find exercise to be immensely helpful in combating fatigue. Exercise not only motivates you but also helps to lower stress levels and boost your spirits.
Urinary and Bladder Problems: A Common Sign of Advanced Prostate Cancer
As mentioned earlier, the prostate gland is located just beneath the bladder. As the prostate tumor grows with time, it can enlarge significantly in size and start to exert pressure on the bladder and urethra. The urethra is the main passageway for carrying urine from the bladder and out of the body. If the cancer spreads and the tumor starts to press on your urethra, then you begin to have trouble in passing urine. Prostate cancer spreads easily to the bladder as the organs are very closely located. Once the tumor enlarges to the bladder, this causes further problems in urination and bladder control.
Common signs to understand that the cancer has spread to the bladder and urethra and affecting their functioning are as follows:
- Frequent urination.
- Presence of blood or semen in urine.
- Getting up several times in the night to urinate.
- Incontinence or the feeling of not being able to hold your urine.
- Feeling the need to pass urine frequently and not actually passing anything.
Pain: Primary Sign of Advanced Prostate Cancer
Pain is also one of the common symptoms of advanced prostate cancer. Men with advanced prostate cancer usually feel pain in the areas it has spread to. It is possible, of course, that some men do not experience any pain at all. If you are experiencing pain, then there are ways to relieve or reduce the same. Some men start to feel the pain when cancer spreads to the bones. If prostate cancer has spread to the bone, it can cause damage to the bone or weaken it, thus causing pain. To determine if this is the case, you can undergo a bone scan, which will show whether there are any areas of the bone that has been weakened. The affected areas of the bone that show up on a scan are known as ‘hot spots.’ The pain radiating from your bones is quite similar to that of a toothache. It feels like a dull aching or stabbing. It tends to worsen when you move, and can also make that particular area tender to touch. Pain might come and go, or it may be constant. The location of the affected bone determines the severity of the pain as well.
Apart from bone pain, you may experience other types of pain as well. If the prostate cancer spreads and starts pressing on a nerve, then also it will cause pain. This might feel like a stabbing, burning, shooting or tingling kind of feeling. Numbness might also occur in that affected area. Pain from advanced prostate cancer can be managed with the right treatment. If you are experiencing pain, then make it a point to mention it to your doctor as early treatment makes it easier to control the pain. Some of the treatments used to control pain in advanced prostate cancer include:
- Actual treatment of cancer with hormone therapy, steroids or chemotherapy.
- Treating the pain with pain-relieving medications, bisphosphonates, radiotherapy, a nerve block or using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
Apart from these methods, you can also look into complementary therapies to manage your pain. A healthy diet and regular exercising can also make a lot of difference to pain from advanced prostate cancer.
Difficulty Controlling Bowel Movements: Sign of Advanced Prostate Cancer
It is possible for advanced prostate cancer to spread to the bowel area. The rectum is the first organ that is affected as it is the part of the bowel located closest to the prostate gland. If prostate cancer spreads to your bowels, it becomes difficult to control bowel movements and many men tend to lose control of their bowels as well. Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer spreading to the bowels include: constipation, blood in stool and stomach pain.
Bowel problems that ensue from prostate cancer include:
- Fecal urgency or feeling the need to rush to the toilet.
- Fecal incontinence.
- Pain in the abdomen or back passage.
- Bowel obstruction or being unable to empty your bowels.
Apart from the actual spreading of prostate cancer to the bowel area, men suffering from advanced prostate cancer can also get bowel problems due to other reasons. One of the most common reason is radiotherapy to the prostate and surrounding areas. You can either get bowel problems immediately during the treatment, or you can develop them months or even years later.
In order to correct such types of bowel problems caused due to advanced prostate cancer, you should consult your doctor about whether a change in your diet could help solve these issues. If yes, then seeking the help of a dietitian is advisable as they can help you make the required changes to your diet. If you are suffering from constipation, then it is a good idea to start eating a lot of high fiber foods, such as whole grain breakfast cereals, whole-wheat bread, prunes, porridge etc. You should also drink plenty of water and indulge in some gentle exercises. Walking is the best exercise you can opt for. On the other hand, if you are suffering from diarrhea, then you need to limit your intake of fiber for some time. Consuming low fiber foods such as pasta, white rice, bread, potatoes without skin, cornmeal, lean white meat, eggs, etc. may help. You also need to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, coffee or fizzy drinks. Consuming fewer dairy products and spicy food will also help in dealing with this sign of advanced prostate cancer.
Back Pain or Pain in your Hips: Sign of Metastatic Prostate Cancer
It is common for prostate cancer to spread to the bones, particularly your hip and spine due to the close proximity to the prostate. Once prostate cancer spreads to your bones, the tumor begins to crowd out the healthy bone material. This causes bones to become brittle and they can break much more easily. Cancer spreading to the bones is a painful experience and it requires treatment to manage the pain. You might feel that there is a constant stabbing pain or a dull ache in the affected region and this is one of the important signs of advanced prostate cancer. The pain refuses to go away and hinders with your sleep patterns and regular activities as well.
Having consistent pain in your back or hips is the first sign that the prostate cancer is spreading to your bones. Apart from pain, you can also feel a pressure on your spinal cord. This is also a symptom of advanced prostate cancer. Spinal cord compression occurs because the tumor starts pressing hard against your spinal cord. This compresses the nerves and they are no longer able to function properly. This condition needs immediate medical treatment and your oncologist would be the best person to advise you on what appropriate steps need to be taken immediately.
Weight Loss: Another Sign of Advanced Prostate Cancer
Losing weight without actively trying to lose weight is also a general sign of advanced prostate cancer, along with the loss of appetite or interest in eating. These signs usually indicate that cancer has spread to other parts of your body such as the liver or stomach.
Types of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is of three types:
Locally Advanced Prostate Cancer: This type of prostate cancer grows through the outer rim of the prostate and spreads to the nearby surrounding tissue.
Recurrent Prostate Cancer: This type of prostate cancer comes back after it has already been treated once. It can come back either in the prostate itself or near the prostate. Prostate cancer can also recur in any other different part of the body. Even though it cancer may return to affect another body part, it will still be known as prostate cancer as it initially began in the prostate itself.
Metastatic Prostate Cancer: We refer to this as advanced prostate cancer and this spreads or metastasizes to the lymph nodes. It can also spread to other body parts, and not necessarily the lymph nodes only.
Even if your prostate cancer has reached advanced levels, there are still some treatment options that you can explore along with your doctor. By spotting these signs in time and notifying them to your doctor, you will have more treatment options available to you. Make sure that you notice any changes in your body and that you communicate the same to your doctor at each visit.