What is prostate cancer?
The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system, located next to the urethra, a duct that takes urine and semen from the bladder and testicles to the penis. The prostate has a walnut shape size and is responsible for the production of seminal fluid that contains sperm. The spermatozoids are sex cells that are formed in the testicles and travel through the epididymis ducts and the vas deferens from the testicles to the prostate. Once there, they collect and mix with seminal fluid until they are ejaculated through the urethra in the penis.
The prostate is an organ formed by connective tissue and epithelial tissue. When these cells malfunction, they give rise to prostate conditions that can be benign such as prostatitis or hyperplasia (BPH) or malignant such as pre-cancer or cancer. Pre-cancer are cells that malfunction but do not act like cancer unless they are left untreated.
The most common type of prostate cancer grows out of the epithelial layer of cells. This form of cancer is known as adenocarcinoma, cancer that occurs in the mucus-producing glandular cells of the body.1 There are also rare types of prostate carcinoma such as urothelial carcinoma (transitional cell carcinoma), sarcoma, and small cell carcinoma.
What is metastatic prostate cancer?
Metastatic prostate cancer is when the malignancy begins to spread beyond the prostate gland and starts to invade the tissues and organs of the body. Cancer can spread beyond the prostate in three ways: through the neighboring tissue, the lymphatic system of lymph nodes and lymph vessels, or through the blood to distant tissues. The most common metastasis are lymph nodes and bones.
Prostate cancer specialists have developed a staging and grading system to better identify the different types of cancers associated with the prostate. Metastatic prostate cancer is usually diagnosed as stage IV cancer as the cancer has already spread through the lymph systems into the bones and other organs such as the bladder, rectum, lungs, and liver.
While prostate cancer is highly treatable when caught early—the American Cancer Society reports a nearly 100 percent survival rate in the five-year period after a person has been treated (many go on to live much longer than this). Stage IV cancers that have spread to distant lymph nodes, bones, and other organs, decrease to a five-year survival rate of 28 percent.2 However, many other factors can affect a patient’s outcome: their age and health, the treatment received, how cancer responds to the treatment and other present comorbidities.