According to the American Cancer Society, for the year 2022, almost 270,000 men will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis. Even though prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death of American men, behind only lung cancer, the overwhelming majority of these patients will have a survival rate of 98 percent.
Most men with prostate cancer may experience possible side effects from treatments which may include urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction. However, men with advanced prostate cancer may also experience pain. This is especially true if cancer has spread to the bones which usually affect the spine, hips, and pelvis.
Prostate cancer that’s spread to the bones
Most cancers can spread to bones. Prostate cancer is considered one of the more common types of cancer likely to metastasize to the bones if it does spread which can cause bone pain.
When cancer spreads to the bones, this disrupts the bones’ ability to form new bone. New bone is always forming while old bone is being broken down. This process is maintained by 2 kinds of bone cells: Osteoblasts which form new bone while osteoclasts break down old bone. When these cells are both working as they should, this helps keep bones strong. Cancer cells within the bones can either block or speed up the action of these bones cells making bones more susceptible to breakage.
Bone metastases from prostate cancer cause other problems by putting pressure on nerves of the spinal cord causing pain or other symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and pain in the arms, legs, or back.
Men experiencing bone pain is the most common symptom if prostate cancer has spread. Men may describe it as a pain that comes and goes and with a tendency to be worse during the night. As the cancer advances, the pain may become more constant.
Tips for relieving bone pain of prostate cancer
It will be very important for men with advanced prostate cancer to let their healthcare team know early on if they are noticing symptoms of bone pain. The sooner this is addressed can help prevent more serious problems later on.
Men experiencing chronic bone pain will find it interfering with normal day-to-day activities. Unrelieved bone pain may affect eating, sleeping, activity, mood, and concentration. It can also slow a man’s recovery from cancer treatment.
When pain management strategies are utilized, this can help men with advanced prostate cancer continue to live the life they want. Below are tips suggested for controlling or relieving pain:
- Talk to your doctor – At the first sign of any bone pain, men should inform their doctor of this. Work with them on pain-relief options.
- Follow your treatment – It will be important for men to continue to follow whatever treatment plan. Treatments often used to slow or prevent the growth of prostate cancer may also help relieve pain symptoms. These treatments include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
- Consider targeted treatments – There are treatments that can target bone metastases more specifically which include drugs called bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates help strengthen bones helping prevent fractures. Other targeted treatments include external radiation therapy, ablation techniques, corticosteroids, and pain medications.
- Reduce Stress – Easier said than done, reducing stress can be a big factor in helping better manage bone pain. Less stress often results in less bone pain. Men can better achieve this by getting sufficient sleep, eating a healthy diet, staying active, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, getting a massage, and working with family members and their spouses to reduce stress.
- Exercise – Staying physically active, with their doctor’s guidance, helps reduce stress and boosts mood. Regular exercise also helps strengthen bones, reducing the risk of fractures. A 2020 study published in the journal Cancers found that regular exercise in men with advanced prostate cancer improves bone density in the spine and hips and reduces the risk for pain-causing fractures. Men, under the supervision of their care team, may consider activities such as walking, stair climbing, weight lifting, or even swimming and yoga to help stretch muscles and reduce pain.
- Find a pain doctor – If a man needs additional pain management, it may be helpful to find a clinician focused solely on addressing pain. Pain doctors can develop a plan tailored to a man’s needs, by setting goals and preferences.
- Track pain keeping the doctor informed – Keeping a record that includes the location of the pain, describing the feeling, how much it hurts, what makes it feel better or worse, and how well any pain treatment is working, is important information men can provide to their doctor for more effectively managing pain relief.
- Stay on top of the pain – Pain is often better managed and relieved when treated early rather than waiting until it becomes severe.
- Pay attention to side effects – Like any medication, there can be side effects from pain medications. These include constipation, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness. Men should inform their doctor right away if they experience any of these side effects.
- Eat healthily and stay hydrated – Bone health requires a sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D helping strengthen and protect bones. Protein is also important for healing fractures and maintaining proper immune function. A referral to a registered dietitian can help men learn better food choices by following a meal plan tailored for them.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.