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The information in the prostate cancer section covers three types of prostate cancer: early (localised) prostate cancer, locally advanced prostate cancer and advanced (metastatic) prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer generally affects men over 50 and is rare in younger men. It’s the most common type of cancer in men. Around 37,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
It differs from most other cancers in the body, in that small areas of cancer within the prostate| are very common and may stay dormant (inactive) for many years.
It’s thought that about half (50%) of all men over 50 may have cancer cells in their prostate, and 8 out of 10 (80%) men over 80 have a small area of prostate cancer. Most of these cancers grow very slowly and so, particularly in elderly men, are unlikely to cause any problems.
In a small proportion of men, prostate cancer can grow more quickly and in some cases may spread to other parts of the body, particularly the bones|.
Early cancer of the prostate gland (early prostate cancer) is when the cancer is only in the prostate and has not spread into the surrounding tissues or to other parts of the body. It is also called localised prostate cancer.
Locally advanced prostate cancer is cancer that has spread into the tissues around the prostate gland. Cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is called metastatic prostate cancer.
Advanced or metastatic cancer of the prostate gland is when the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland to other parts of the body.
Prostate cancer is usually diagnosed in the early stages before it starts to spread outside the prostate gland. But in some men, the prostate cancer will be advanced when it is first diagnosed. Advanced prostate cancer can also occur in men who have previously been treated for early or locally advanced prostate cancer but their cancer has come back (relapsed or recurred). You can find out more about the stages of prostate cancer|.
Prostate cancer cells can sometimes spread beyond the prostate gland. The cancer cells may travel around the body in the bloodstream or, less commonly the lymphatic system|. When these cells reach a new area of the body, they may go on dividing and form a new tumour called a metastasis or secondary tumour.
The most common places for prostate cancer to spread are to bones such as the spine, pelvis, thigh bone (femur) and ribs. Usually, the cancer cells will spread to a number of different places in the bones rather than to a single site.
Sometimes prostate cancer can affect the bone marrow. This is the spongy material that’s found in the centre of most bones. It’s also where the body’s blood cells are made.
Prostate cancer can also spread to the lymph nodes|, and occasionally it may affect the lungs|, the brain |and the liver|.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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