Prostate cancer generally affects men over 50, and is rarely found in younger men. It is the commonest type of cancer in men. Around 34,000 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.
Approximately one half of all men in their fifties have some cancer cells within their prostate and 8 out of 10 men (80%) over the age of 80 have a small area of prostate cancer. Most of these cancers grow extremely slowly and so, particularly in elderly men, will never cause any problems.
In a small proportion of men, the prostate cancer can grow more quickly and in some cases may spread to other parts of the body, particularly The Bones
Early (localised) prostate cancer
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
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 (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 has begun to spread outside the prostate gland. In about 1 in 10 men (10%), the prostate cancer will be advanced when it is first diagnosed.
Advanced prostate cancer can also occur in men who have been treated for early or locally-advanced prostate cancer and whose 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 primary tumour) and travel around the body in the blood stream, or less commonly the Lyphatic 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 place that prostate cancer spreads to is 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 a single site. Sometimes prostate cancer can affect the bone marrow. This is the soft tissue in the centre of most bones and is where the blood cells are made. Prostate cancer can also spread to the lymph nodes and very occcasionally may affect the lungs, the brain and the liver.
We have separate information about the different treatment options for each of the three types of prostate cancer.