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During the early stages of prostate cancer, symptoms of the disease are not always noticeable. That’s why health professionals encourage men to be screened, which involves a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and rectal digital exam. Unfortunately, signs that prostate cancer has spread are sometimes the first indications of the presence of the disease.
Where does prostate cancer spread?
Prostate cancer that has spread, which is also known as advanced prostate cancer or metastatic cancer, means the disease has extended its reach beyond the prostate gland. In about 80 percent of cases, the cancer spreads to the bones, especially pelvic, hip, or spine. Other common locations are the bladder and rectum.
Metastatic prostate cancer can also spread to the liver, lungs, lymph nodes, and other tissues.
Signs that prostate cancer has spread
Prostate cancer does no behave the same way in every may, as much depends on genetics. Therefore, it’s important to know the signs that prostate cancer has spread so you can alert your healthcare professionals.
Note that many of these signs are also associated with other conditions that affect the prostate. Therefore, it’s important that you contact your physician if you begin to experience any of them.
Bladder and urinary tract issues
Prostate cancer can spread to the bladder, which can cause problems with bladder function and urination. Some of those problems can include needing to urinate more frequently, blood in your semen or urine, getting up often during the night to urinate, and urinary incontinence. These are also symptoms of an enlarged prostate and prostatitis.
Loss of bowel control
If prostate cancer spreads to the rectum, symptoms may include stomach pain, blood in your stool, and constipation.
Breathing problems or coughing
Prostate cancer that has spread to the lungs can cause shortness of breath, coughing up blood, a persistent cough, or fluid accumulation in the lungs. In some cases the lung can collapse.
Unexplained weight loss
A common sign of advanced cancer is weight loss that occurs even though you are not eating less or trying to lose weight. Loss of interest in food or your appetite is also a sign cancer has spread.
Sore pelvic region
The lymph nodes in the groin, which are very close to the prostate, are frequently where spreading cancer cells locate. Once the cancer cells are in position, they interfere with the ability of the nodes to drain fluid properly. This results in swollen lymph nodes and pain or soreness in the area.
Swelling or weakness in the legs
Sometimes the tumors of metastatic prostate cancer press on the spinal cord. This can result in swelling, pain, or tingling in the legs and feet.
Back or hip pain
In most cases, metastatic prostate cancer affects the bones, and more specifically the hips and spine. As the cancer cells crowd out healthy cells, the bones become brittle. Cancer in the bones is painful and is usually characterized by stabbing pain or a persistent dull ache.
Back pain may be a sign that the cancer has spread to the spinal cord and is exerting pressure, or it may be an indication the cancer is in the bone. If the cancer causes compression of the spinal cord, nerve function is affected.
It’s important to recognize the signs that prostate cancer has spread so you and your doctors can discuss the treatment options available to you. Medical advances have made it possible to enjoy a better quality of life when living with advanced prostate cancer.