Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs you have it for many years.
Symptoms often only become apparent when your prostate is large enough to affect the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis).
When this happens, you may notice things like an increased need to urinate, straining while urinating and a feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied.
These symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, but they do not mean you definitely have prostate cancer. It is more likely that they are caused by something else, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (also known as BPH or prostate enlargement).
In a small proportion of men, prostate cancer can grow more quickly and in some cases may spread to other parts of the body, particularly the bones.
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 is cancer that has spread into the tissues around the prostate gland.
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 starts to spread outside the prostate gland. But in some men, the prostate cancer will be advanced when it is first diagnosed. Advanced prostate cancer can also occur in men who have previously been treated for early or locally advanced prostate cancer but their cancer has come back (relapsed or recurred).
Prostate cancer cells can sometimes spread beyond the prostate gland. The cancer cells may travel around the body in the bloodstream or, less commonly the lymphatic 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 places for prostate cancer to spread are to 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 to a single site.
Sometimes prostate cancer can affect the bone marrow. This is the spongy material that’s found in the centre of most bones. It’s also where the body’s blood cells are made.
Prostate cancer can also spread to the lymph nodes, and occasionally it may affect the lungs, the brain and the liver.