Advanced prostate cancer
If prostate cancer is in nearby tissues or organs (locally advanced) or has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body, treatment will aim to relieve symptoms or keep the cancer under control for years. ADT is the main treatment. Other treatments are outlined below.
Learn more about:
- Other drug therapies
- Radiation therapy
- Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
- Bone therapies
- Palliative treatment
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. If the prostate cancer continues to spread despite using ADT, chemotherapy may be suitable. Chemotherapy may also be offered as part of initial treatment in combination with ADT.
Generally, chemotherapy is given through a drip (infusion) into a vein (intravenously). It is usually given once every three weeks and you do not need to stay overnight in hospital.
Side effects of chemotherapy may include fatigue; hair loss; changes in blood counts increasing the risk of bleeding or infections; numbness or tingling in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy); changes in nails; and rare side effects, such as allergic reactions or blocked tear ducts.
For more on this, see Chemotherapy.
Other drug therapies
Newer drug therapies may be used to treat advanced prostate cancer that has stopped responding to ADT. These drugs (e.g. abiraterone, enzalutamide, apalutamide) are hormone therapy tablets that can be combined with ADT to help prolong life and reduce symptoms.
They are usually taken daily. Other drug therapies include drugs that affect specific molecules within cells to block cell growth. These are known as targeted therapy. Clinical trials are testing whether targeted therapy drugs will benefit people with genetic mutations.
Radiation to the prostate may be recommended to slow the growth of the cancer. In some cases, radiation therapy is given to the sites where the cancer has spread, such as the bones or lymph nodes.
For more on this, see Radiation therapy.
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
This surgical procedure is used to relieve blockages in the urinary tract. It helps with symptoms of more advanced prostate cancer, such as the need to pass urine more often and a slow flow of urine. If you have localised cancer, TURP may be used before radiation therapy to relieve symptoms of urinary blockage. TURP is also used to treat benign prostate hyperplasia.
You will be given a general or spinal anaesthetic. A thin tube-like instrument is passed through the opening of the penis and up the urethra to remove the blockage. The surgery takes about an hour, and you will usually stay in hospital for a couple of days. Side effects may include blood in urine or problems urinating for a few days.
If the prostate cancer has spread to the bones, your doctor may suggest treatments to manage the effect of the cancer on the bones. Drugs can be used to prevent or minimise bone pain and reduce the risk of fractures and pressure on the spinal cord. Radiation therapy can also be used to control bone pain, to prevent fractures or help them heal, and to treat cancer in the spine that is causing pressure on spinal nerves (spinal cord compression).
Dr Amy Hayden, Radiation Oncologist, Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals, and Chair, Faculty of Radiation Genito-Urinary Group (FROGG), The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, NSW; Prof Shomik Sengupta, Professor of Surgery and Deputy Head, Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University, and Visiting Urologist and Uro-Oncology Lead, Urology Department, Eastern Health, VIC; A/Prof Arun Azad, Medical Oncologist, Urological and Prostate Cancers, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Ken Bezant, Consumer; Dr Marcus Dreosti, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, and Clinical Strategy Lead, Oncology Australia, SA; A/Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician, Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics and The University of Western Australia, WA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and HeadwayHealth Clinical and Consulting Psychology Services, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Western Australia; Graham Rees, Consumer; Kerry Santoro, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Matthew Starr, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. This booklet is funded through the generosity of the people of Australia.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.