What are the treatment options for stage 4 prostate cancer?

Stage 4 prostate cancer treatment depends on several factors, chiefly how fast the cancer is growing and spreading. The benefits of immediate treatment will be weighed against potential long-term risks and side effects. If your stage 4 prostate cancer doesn't have any symptoms, there's a chance that symptoms will never appear and your doctor may accordingly recommend a strategy known as watchful waiting, or active surveillance, in which no treatments are immediately made.

If it's determined that your stage 4 prostate cancer is spreading rapidly, there are several treatment options:

  • Surgery may be used to freeze cancerous tissues or remove the prostate either in parts or entirely.
  • Radiation, either internal or external, may be used instead of surgery and is often combined with hormone therapy, in which prostate cancer cells are denied the male hormones that they feed off of.
  • Medications such as hormonal therapy and chemotherapy are used to treat the symptoms of stage 4 prostate cancer. This treatment is called "palliative," meaning it is meant to ease the symptoms of the disease rather the get rid of it entirely. Because stage 4 prostate cancer is still contained within the prostate and has not spread to other parts of the body, treatment with medication at this stage is unusual; surgery to remove the diseased tissue is a much more common treatment option at stage 4.
  • Vaccines are used for treatment rather than prevention of the disease. Sipuleucel-T (Provenge), the currently available vaccine—there are more types undergoing clinical trials—is administered after hormone therapy has failed to produce the desired results. The idea of a cancer vaccine is that it will work with the body's immune system to attack cancerous cells, which normally go undetected.

Although no alternative treatments will cure stage 4 prostate cancer, there are options to help you cope with side effects of the cancer's symptoms or the treatment of the disease. All of these alternative treatments are aimed at reducing stress and taking the mind off the disease. Examples include exercise; meditation; guided relaxation techniques; music, dance or art therapy; and the comfort of spirituality.

The farther the cancer spreads from the prostate, the harder it is to successfully treat. Stage 4 prostate cancer, unless detected early enough, can therefore be more difficult to treat since it has spread beyond the prostate. Once prostate cancer spreads to distant organs, a condition called metastatic prostate cancer, a cure is no longer possible.

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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.