Recurrent Prostate Cancer

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Your doctor has determined that you have recurrent prostate cancer, which is the return of cancer that was thought to be in remission (not active) or cured. This happens when malignant cells survive in the body after a patient has treatment to remove or destroy cancer. The surviving cells may eventually develop into tumors that become large enough to detect and identify as a recurrence.

About the Condition

The prostate gland is typically the size of a walnut, located below the bladder and in front of the rectum in men. It surrounds a portion of the urethra, or tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. Its main purpose is to produce fluid for semen, which transports sperm.

Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate do not develop and die in their normal manner. The extra cells that result form a malignant growth, or tumor, which may invade and damage surrounding areas or spread to other locations in the body (metastasize).

Recurrent prostate cancer occurs when malignant cells of the same type as the original tumor are found in the body again. These recurrences are categorized as local, regional or distant.

A local recurrence of prostate cancer means the malignancy is confined to same area of the body as the original cancer, or very close to it. This can happen even if a patient had a previous surgery to remove the prostate gland. A regional recurrence also involves the same area as the original prostate cancer, but includes nearby lymph nodes or tissues. When prostate cancer recurs at a distance, this means that it has metastasized to other parts of the body.

To determine the extent of your cancer is and if it has spread, your doctor may want to perform one or more tests, which could include the following:

•  MRI Scan
•  Ultrasound
•  Lymph Node Biopsy
•  X-ray
•  CT Scan
•  Bone Scan

Recurrent cancer that is located only within the prostate gland is the most manageable and curable. If malignant prostate cells are found beyond the prostate in the seminal vesicles, lymph nodes or other areas of the body, the treatment plan will be more complex and the cancer may not be curable. Many treatment options are available for patients with incurable prostate cancer to help minimize pain and improve quality of life.

Treatment Options

Deciding on a treatment plan for your recurrent prostate cancer can be complex and depend upon a variety of factors, such as your age, general health condition, stage of cancer, previous cancer treatments and personal preferences. Generally, any type of therapy you had before will not be an option. The following treatment possibilities are available:

Surgery – Removal of the entire prostate gland, called radical prostatectomy, is a common way to treat prostate cancer. Surrounding tissues and nearby lymph nodes may also be removed. This procedure can be an option for some patients who previously had radiation therapy.

Cryosurgery – One option for patients with localized cancer is cryosurgery, which uses super-cooled gas to freeze and kill prostate cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy – Another common prostate cancer treatment is radiation therapy, which can be delivered externally or internally. In external beam radiation, a high energy X-ray machine is used to direct radiation at the tumor. Internal radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, destroys cancer cells with small radioactive pellets that are implanted directly into the prostate. Radiation therapy may be helpful for men who previously had a radical prostatectomy.

Hormone Therapy – Prostate cancer cells need male hormones, or androgens, such as testosterone to grow. Hormone therapy helps cancer shrink and grow more slowly by keeping the malignant cells from getting androgens. Methods used include drugs to block the production and effect of androgens and removal of the testicles, the main site of testosterone production. For patients whose cancer has metastasized, hormone therapy may be the most effective treatment.

Chemotherapy – The use of anti-cancer drugs, or chemotherapy, provides a way to slow tumor growth and reduce pain for patients whose cancer has spread outside of the prostate and is unresponsive to hormone therapy.

You may also consider participating in clinical trials. These investigative studies help doctors learn about new treatments and better ways to use established treatments. Talk with your doctor about the possibility of taking part in a clinical trial in your area.

What You Can Do

You can choose to take an active role in your health and well-being. Learn as much as you can about your condition and have a list of questions ready each time you meet with your doctor. Join a support group of other men with prostate cancer and talk with your family, friends, clergyperson or counselor as you feel comfortable. Also, be sure to get enough sleep and eat healthy foods every day.

Additional Resources

American Cancer Society, 800.227.2345,
National Cancer Institute, 800.422.6237,
Us TOO International, 800.808.7866,

This patient resource sheet is provided to you as a service of CBLPath® and is intended for information purposes only. It may not fully describe all aspects of your diagnosis and is not meant to serve as medical advice or a substitute for professional medical care. Your physician can provide you with a thorough explanation of your diagnosis and appropriate treatment options, which may vary. Only you and your physician can determine your best treatment plan.

Updated 9.07