Live to the max

Today’s treatments can help you live longer and better than ever—even with stage IV prostate cancer. And for many men, facing the challenge brings an unexpected reward: more meaning and joy in every moment.

By
Health Monitor Staff
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“We’re getting out and doing things we’d never done before. Hiking, snowshoeing, going to the coast on weekends…,” Gary Johnson, 66, says of the years that have passed since his diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer a decade ago. “Marlys and I just wanted to do more things together.”

Living in Bend, OR, Gary is surrounded by lakes, mountains and hiking trails he hadn’t explored until his cancer fight began. “The last 10 years have been the happiest of our lives,” he says. “When you’re out in the woods, you’re in a different world. You forget about cancer.”

And to mark their upcoming 25th anniversary, he and his wife are still debating: take an Alaskan cruise or a trip to Colorado?

If you, like Gary, have learned that your prostate cancer has metastasized—spread to other parts of the body, usually the bones and sometimes the lungs and liver—you might also find that the happiest time of your life is still to come. All the doctor visits, the tests and treatments? They just may become easier to manage—they have for Gary. “The anxiety at the beginning was the worst,” he says. “After 10 years, I’m at a different place. I used to get nervous after doing a PSA. Now, it really doesn’t affect me.” What helps, he says, is having a doctor you can trust.

So, even if your prostate cancer has advanced, you too can look ahead to joyous tomorrows. New treatments can target tumors with greater precision than ever. Some work together to deliver a powerful one-two punch to cancer cells. And many exciting therapies are currently being investigated.

What is metastatic prostate cancer?
Stage IV, or metastatic prostate cancer, occurs when malignant cells spread to lymph nodes or to organs or tissues in other parts of the body. While 90% of men are diagnosed when cancer is still local and not metastasized, some men are diagnosed with stage IV disease initially.

What are the symptoms?
Bone pain, back pain, weight loss, swelling in the legs and feet, pelvic discomfort, erectile problems, trouble urinating and blood in the urine and/or semen are signs of advanced prostate cancer. However, not everyone with metastatic disease will experience symptoms.

Where does it spread?
Prostate cancer can spread around the prostate gland itself, outside the prostate capsule or to the seminal vesicles (stage III) or to the lymph nodes or bones (stage IV). When it spreads to the bones, the hips, spine and ribs are typically affected. Less commonly, prostate cancer spreads to the liver and lungs.

Can anything be done?
Yes! While stage IV prostate cancer cannot be cured, it can be treated and, in fact, viewed as a chronic disease that one can live with for years, pain free. Therapies can slow or halt cancer growth and relieve symptoms to make your quality of life the best it can be.

So that milestone you had in mind? Maybe it’s a birthday, an anniversary or a child’s wedding? With the help of your cancer team, modern medicine and your own will to survive, you may well enjoy that special celebration—and many more to come.

Published
November 2014