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If prostate cancer spreads
Cancer cells have the potential to spread from the prostate to other parts of the body where they can grow into new tumours. This process is called metastasis. The tumours are also called metastasis (singular) or metastases (plural). Metastases are also called secondary tumours.
Understanding the usual progression of cancer helps the doctor to predict its probable course, plan treatment and anticipate further care.
Prostate cancer spreads by direct extension to nearby structures or by lymphatic spread to the regional lymph nodes. Prostate cancer can also spread through the blood to distant sites.
The most common sites where prostate cancer spreads are:
- lymph nodes surrounding the prostate
- bone – especially the spine, pelvis, thigh bone (femur) and ribs
- lung metastases (very rare)
- liver metastases (very rare)
- brain metastases (very rare)
Cancer-related emergencies are serious cancer-related problems that can occur because of prostate cancer:
- acute renal failure – This can result from obstruction of the ureters.
- brain metastasis – This causes a variety of symptoms, including headache and disturbances in mood, speech, movement and internal body functions. In addition to supportive therapy to relieve symptoms and lower intracranial pressure, treatment of the brain metastasis may be given based on the general health of the person.
- bladder outlet obstruction – This requires supportive therapy as well as treatment to relieve or bypass the obstruction. TURP is sometimes performed.
- spinal cord compression – This is caused by spread of the prostate cancer to the spine, which compresses the spinal cord. It may cause sudden weakness of the legs. This usually requires treatment to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord and prevent numbness of the legs or paralysis.