Prostate cancer and the lymph nodes

The lymphatic system helps protect us from disease. If prostate cancer cells spread to the lymph nodes, they usually go to the nodes close to the prostate.

The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system helps protect us from infection and disease. It is made up of fine tubes called lymphatic vessels. These vessels connect to groups of small lymph nodes throughout the body. The lymphatic system drains lymph fluid from the tissues of the body before returning it to the blood.

 

Prostate lymph nodes
Image: Prostate lymph nodes

 

 

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are sometimes called lymph glands. They filter bacteria (germs) and disease from the lymph fluid. When you have an infection, some lymph nodes may swell as they fight the infection.

Lymph nodes and prostate cancer

If prostate cancer cells spread to the lymph nodes, they usually go to the nodes close to the prostate. You may have a scan to check if the cancer has spread to these nodes.

In early prostate cancer, the cells have not spread to the lymph nodes.

Locally advanced prostate cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes that are close to the prostate.

In advanced prostate cancer, there are usually cancer cells in the lymph nodes close to the prostate and in lymph nodes further away.

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    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Jim Barber, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Dr Ursula McGovern, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

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