This is the first part of our mini-series about the condition based on our patient booklet “Fast Facts for Patient and Their Supporters: Metastatic Prostate Cancer”.

The word “metastasis” comes from the Greek “to move”. Metastatic prostate cancer refers to cancer cells that have traveled from the prostate to other parts of the body.

First, the Facts

  • Prostate cancer can spread to any part of the body, but most commonly to the bones and lymph nodes. How you feel will depend on where the cancer has spread to.
  • There is no cure for metastatic prostate cancer, but hormonal treatments delay progression of the disease in most men for, on average, 2 years, and many men benefit for much longer.
  • When initial hormone treatment stops working, there are other therapies that will improve quality of life, help to manage pain and extend life, although sometimes only for a few months.
  • Improvements in palliative care in recent years mean that, in the final stages of the disease, pain and discomfort can be minimized.
  • Metastatic prostate cancer affects every man differently. A frank, open discussion with your doctor about your future health will help you make the best decisions for you.

How Does Prostate Cancer Spread?

To understand how prostate cancer spreads, you need a minimal knowledge of the biology of the disease. First, we must look at the anatomy of the prostate.


Anatomy of the prostate


Learn about Lymph

The lymphatic channels are initially filtered through lymph nodes in the pelvis. Cancer cells from the prostate travel through blood vessels and lymphatic channels to other parts of the body where they re-implant and start to grow.

Where Does Prostate Cancer Spread to?

Prostate cancer does not spread in a predictable way, but it can spread to any part of the body. The prostate is surrounded by a rich lymph system, so prostate cancer tends to spread to the lymph nodes (lymph glands) in the pelvis first, and then to the bones of the lower spine and pelvis. Prostate cancer cells continue to multiply in these lymph nodes, eventually spilling over into the bloodstream.


Spreading of prostate cancer


Information based on Metastatic Prostate Cancer (Karger, 2017).

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