What is metastatic prostate cancer?

Metastatic prostate cancer means the cancer has spread from the prostate to other parts of the body. It is sometimes called advanced prostate cancer. It most commonly spreads to lymph nodes in other parts of the body or to the bones. It can also spread to other organs such as the lungs. 

Diagram showing metastatic prostate cancer

Locally advanced prostate cancer

Locally advanced prostate cancer is different to advanced prostate cancer.

Locally advanced cancer means that the cancer has spread into nearby tissue and lymph nodes Open a glossary item around the prostate. It may have spread into the:

  • tissue around the prostate
  • the tubes that carry semen. These are the seminal vesicles
  • body organs nearby such as the back passage or bladder
  • lymph nodes close to the prostate gland

Where does prostate cancer spread?

Prostate cancer can spread anywhere but most commonly spreads to the:

  • bones
  • lymph nodes
  • liver
  • lungs

Your doctor will arrange some scans and tests if you have symptoms that could be due to metastatic prostate cancer. They will also examine you and find out how you are feeling.

TNM stages

The TNM staging system stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis.

  • T describes the size of the tumour (cancer)
  • N describes whether there are any cancer cells in the lymph nodes
  • M describes whether the cancer has spread to a different part of the body

In the TNM staging system, metastatic prostate cancer is any T, any N, M1.

Tests to diagnose metastatic prostate cancer

You might have tests to help diagnose metastatic prostate cancer. These can be similar to tests to diagnose prostate cancer, so you might have had some of them before.


Your treatment depends on:

  • your age and general health
  • how you feel about the treatments and side effects

There are different treatments for metastatic prostate cancer. These include:

  • hormone therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • steroids
  • radiotherapy
  • targeted drugs
  • radioisotope therapy
  • symptom control such as treatment to help with bone pain

How you might feel

When prostate cancer is advanced, it can no longer be cured. But treatment can control it for some time and help to relieve symptoms.

Finding out that your cancer can’t be cured is distressing and can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious. It's normal not to be able to think about anything else.

Lots of information and support are available to you, your family and your friends. It can help to find out more about your cancer and the treatments you might have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to understand:

  • what your diagnosis means
  • what is likely to happen
  • what treatment is available
  • how treatment can help you

You and your family will be looked after by a team of healthcare professionals who can support you.


Many people want to know what the outlook is and how their cancer will develop. This is different for each person. Your cancer specialist has all the information about you and your cancer. They're the best person to discuss this with.

You can also talk to your specialist nurse.

For information and support, you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on 0808 800 4040, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2019

  • Prostate cancer: diagnosis and management
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2019. Last updated December 2021

  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (8th Edition)
    American Joint Committee on Cancer, 2017

  • Prostate cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    C Parker and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2020. Vol 31, Issue 9. Pages 1119-1134

Last reviewed: 
15 Feb 2023
Next review due: 
15 Feb 2026

Related links