In the early stages, you may not notice any symptoms related to prostate cancer. This is why screenings are important. Symptoms can sometimes be noticed for the first time when the cancer advances.
Advanced prostate cancer, also called metastatic cancer, means the cancer has spread to other areas of your body beyond your prostate gland. The most common areas for prostate cancer to spread are your bladder, rectum, and bones. It can also spread to your lymph nodes, liver, lungs, and other body tissues.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you’re in treatment, it’s also important to know the signs of advanced cancer. Cancer can behave differently depending on your genetics, so not every person will experience the same symptoms in the same way.
Read on to learn more about the seven top symptoms of advanced prostate cancer and how to spot them.
A prostate tumor that has grown significantly in size may start to press on your bladder and urethra. The urethra is the passage the carries urine from your bladder out of your body. If the tumor is pressing on your urethra, you might have trouble passing urine.
One of the common areas for prostate cancer to spread to is the bladder, because the two organs are close. This can cause additional problems with urination and bladder function.
Some symptoms your bladder and urethra are being affected by cancer include:
- urinating more frequently
- getting up in the middle of the night to pee
- having blood in your urine or semen
- feeling like you have to urinate often and not actually passing anything
- not being able to hold your urine (incontinence)
It’s not as common, but prostate cancer can also spread to your bowel. The cancer first spreads to the rectum, which is the part of your bowel closest to the prostate gland.
Symptoms of cancer that’s spread to the bowels include:
- stomach pain
- blood in your stool
When prostate cancer spreads, it’s common for cancer cells to go to your lymph nodes and then move to more areas of your body. (This is the same for other forms of cancer.) The lymph nodes are a network of glands that help your body filter fluids and fight infections.
There are several lymph nodes in your groin. These are the ones closest to your prostate, so it’s common for the cancer to spread to them first. Cancer cells prevent your lymph nodes from draining fluid and working properly. When this happens, your lymph nodes swell. As a result, you might experience pain or soreness in the area.
Advanced cancer begins to crowd out other healthy cells in your body when it grows. Tumors can press on areas like your spinal cord and cause pain, tingling, or swelling in your legs and feet.
One of the most common areas for prostate cancer to spread is to the bones, often your hip and spine since these are closest to your prostate. When cancer reaches your bones, it starts to crowd out healthy bone material. Bones become brittle and can break much easier than they normally would.
Having cancer spread to your bones is painful and often requires treatment to manage the pain. You may feel a dull ache or stabbing pain that doesn’t go away and disrupts sleep or regular activities.
Back pain can be a sign of both cancer spreading to your bones or the beginning of pressure on your spinal cord. Spinal cord compression happens when cancer is pushing so hard against the spinal cord that the nerves can no longer work properly. This requires medical treatment, and your cancer team might talk to you about a plan ahead of time.
If you have advanced cancer and begin to have trouble breathing, this could mean it has spread to your lungs. You might develop a cough that doesn’t go away, start coughing up blood, or become easily out of breath.
Cancer in your lungs can also lead to fluid buildup, causing infections and even a lung collapse.
Losing weight without eating less or actively trying to lose weight is a general sign of advanced cancer. This could be combined with some of the other signs above.
Loss of appetite or interest in eating is also a sign cancer has spread to other areas of your body, like your liver.
Even if your cancer has advanced, there are still a variety of treatment options available. People are able to live longer today than in years past because of advances in medical research. Treatments for advanced prostate cancer focus on managing symptoms and slowing the growth and spread of the cancer.
Your doctor knows the treatment options and tests, but you know your body. Make sure to communicate with your doctor and tell them about any changes you notice in your body at each visit.