Late stage prostate cancer – What does it mean?

Late stage prostate cancer is a term that is often used to describe Stage IV prostate cancer.

It means the cancer has metastasized (spread) to lymph nodes either near or far from the prostate gland.

It is also used to describe prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of a man’s body, such as the:

  • Rectum
  • Bladder
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Bones

It is quite common for metastatic prostate cancer to spread to a man’s bones.

Confusing classifications

Late stage prostate cancer used to be referred to as D1 or D2 stage prostate cancer, based on the older Whitmore-Jewitt staging system.

Now most healthcare professionals use the TNM staging system. With this system, late stage prostate cancer typically refers to prostate cancers that range from N1 to M1c.

Advanced prostate cancer

To make things even more confusing, sometimes late stage prostate cancer is referred to as advanced prostate cancer.

In that case, men with T3/N0/M0 cancers might also fit into the late stage category.

Advanced prostate cancer basically means that the cancer has moved beyond the prostate gland.

It may be further defined as:

  • Locally advanced
  • Regionally advanced
  • Or metastatic prostate cancer

You might think that all men who have advanced prostate cancer will have a very high Gleason score, but that’s not always the case.

Treatment options for late stage prostate cancer

If your loved one has been told that his cancer is in the later stages, it is generally not considered to be curable.

But treatment may be able to keep the cancer from progressing further.  It may comfort you to know that there are many men who are living with late stage prostate cancer.

Surgery is usually not an option because the cancer has already spread beyond the prostate gland.

Possible treatment options include:

Hormone therapy is a very common treatment and it has been shown to help some men live longer.

The challenge is that at some point the cancer stops responding to hormone treatment.

When this happens it is called hormone-refractory prostate cancer or androgen-independent cancer.

The great debate

There is still no clear consensus about whether men with advanced prostate cancer should have early hormone therapy (particularly if they have no symptoms) or delay their therapy until symptoms become troublesome.

Because of the side effects of hormone therapy (both short- and long-term), this is something that you should thoroughly discuss with your loved one’s physician.

Two key factors in this decision are:

  • How fast the cancer is progressing
  • Quality of life

Back to prostate cancer questions and answers

The American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer. Accessed March 17, 2015.

Moul JW. The Evolving Definition of Advanced Prostate Cancer. Rev Urol. 2004;6(Suppl 8):S10–S17.

Miyamoto H, Messing EM. Early versus late hormonal therapy for prostate cancer. Curr Urol Rep. 2004 Jun;5(3):188-96.

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