Managing Advanced Stage Prostate Cancer

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • The term advanced stage prostate cancer means that your cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Prostate cancer most frequently spreads to the bones and lymph nodes but it can spread anywhere, including the bladder, the kidneys and the bowel. Tumors can also press against the urethra, causing pain and problems with urination.

     

    There is no cure for advanced stage prostate cancer, however, it can be controlled, sometimes for years. Because cancer develops differently in each person, there is no way of knowing how your cancer will develop, how quickly it will develop and what your life expectancy is. Your doctor may be able to give you some idea based on your current health, your health history and how your cancer has developed thus far.

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    Palliative care

     

    You might hear the term “palliative” care and worry that it means you are near the end of your life. This isn’t necessarily true. Palliative care applies to care for a terminal illness. It focuses on managing symptoms as well as providing physical, practical and spiritual care. Some men receive palliative care for years.

     

    Treatment

     

    There are four main types of treatment used when you have advanced stage prostate cancer:

     

    Hormone therapy - Testosterone helps to fuel the growth of prostate cancer. Hormone therapy blocks the production or absorption of testosterone. This type of treatment often shrinks tumors or slows down their growth. Possible side effects include erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, hot flashes, enlarged breasts, bone loss and insulin sensitivity.

     

    Radiation - Radiation therapy targets cancer in the prostate and in other parts of your body. It works to kill the cancer cells. If your cancer has spread to your bones, there are several ways radiation therapy can be administered, including, external radiation or administered through the bloodstream. It may not kill all of the cancer cells in your bones but often kills enough to lessen your pain. Possible side effects include erectile dysfunction, frequent urination, blood in urine, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, discomfort during bowel movement.

     

    Immunotherapy - This type of therapy “boosts” your immune system to help it fight the cancer cells. The medication Provenge is approved by the FDA to be used for advanced stage prostate cancer. Side effect include running a fever.

     

    Chemotherapy - This treatment uses a combination of different drugs to kill the cancer cells. It usually has severe side effects and is often used only when other methods of treatments have failed. Chemotherapy is usually given in several cycles, so that your body has a chance to recover from the side effects before the next cycle begins. Possible side effects include hair loss, fragile bones, nausea, constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, confusion, depression.

     

    Your doctor might suggest that you use more than one type of treatment at the same time, for example, hormone therapy and radiation. Your treatment plan should include strategies for minimizing and coping with side effects.

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    Managing symptoms

     

    It might sometimes be hard to know whether your symptoms are caused by your cancer or the treatment you are receiving. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter - managing each symptom, no matter the cause, is important. Controlling symptoms provides you with a more comfortable life and gives you a higher quality of life. It can help you carry on your daily activities or spend more time with the people you love. Some of the common problems associated with advanced stage prostate cancer include:

     

    Fatigue

     

    What you can do -

    • Try to stay active by walking each day
    • Plan rest into your daily schedule
    • Talk to your doctor if you are not sleeping

     

    Pain

     

    What you can do -

    • Follow your treatment plan, this should help lessen the pain
    • Talk to your doctor about pain medications

     

    Urinary problems

     

    What you can do -

    • Talk to your doctor about medications and/or a catheter
    • Use absorbent pads and underwear
    • Talk to your doctor about surgery

     

    Bowel problems

     

    What you can do -

    • Use diet to help manage bowel problems - high fiber if constipated or cutting down on fiber for diarrhea
    • Drink plenty of water
    • Avoid spicy foods

     

    Bone fractures

     

    What you can do -

     

    Your treatment team is in place to help you. If you are uncomfortable, in pain or no longer able to participate in daily life, talk to your treatment team to find out what can be done to help you live a better life.

     

    For more information:

    Men with Advanced Prostate Cancer Might Benefit from Ovarian Cancer Drug

    Symptoms That Show You Might Have Advanced Prostate Cancer

    Using Chemotherapy Early in Treatment May Help Extend the Life of Patients with Prostate Cancer

     

    References:

    Advanced Prostate Cancer: Managing Symptoms, Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Prostate Cancer UK

    Principles for Managing Advanced Prostate Cancer,” Updated 2014, November, Staff Writer, UsToo.org

Published On: June 17, 2015