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What is stage 3 prostate cancer?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Stage 3 prostate cancer has progressed to tissues near the prostate such as the seminal vesicles, but has not invaded the lymph nodes. The prostate is a small organ normally the size of a walnut that functions as part of the male reproductive system, producing and transporting semen.

Stage 3 prostate cancer is part of the second most common cancer type after skin cancer. Prostate cancer is also the second-highest cause of death among men suffering from cancer. Of the 2,276,112 men with a history of prostate cancer in the United States in 2007, 12 percent were at a stage (such as stage 3) in which the disease was still localized around the prostate and regional organs.

Effects of stage 3 prostate cancer can primarily be found in the male urinary and reproductive systems. Urinary problems can include difficulty starting and stopping urination or a weakened urine stream, feeling the need to urinate more than usual, blood in the urine, or a burning sensation during urination. Reproductive symptoms include difficulty achieving an erection or blood in the semen. Stage 3 prostate cancer can also cause pain in the bones and muscles of the pelvic area such as the hips, thighs, and lower back, as well as swollen legs.

Stage 3 prostate cancer is generally detected and diagnosed through routine screening. Prostate cancer can be detected even before symptoms begin to appear. There are two common tests for the disease: digital examination, in which the doctor physically feels the prostate using a lubricated finger inserted through the rectum; and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which is a blood test. If either of these tests indicates the potential for prostate cancer, further tests will be ordered, possibly including an ultrasound and a biopsy, or sample, of prostate tissue. Although it is possible to detect and diagnose stage 3 prostate cancer before symptoms appear, the practice remains controversial, as early detection of prostate cancer is not necessarily linked to higher survival rates.

With the right medical attention, the outlook for stage 3 prostate cancer is actually not as serious as might first be assumed. If prostate cancer is caught before it has a chance to spread to other parts of the body outside the immediate region of the prostate, long-term survival rates are extremely favorable, with a 5-year relative survival rate of 100 percent, and most people with the disease living as long as their healthy counterparts. This is due in part to the fact that the disease is often not detected until late in life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.