Coping with 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. 

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.

There is support available to help you cope with the emotional, practical and physical issues of metastatic prostate cancer.

How you might feel

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

Lots of information and support is available to you, your family and friends. Some people find it helpful to find out more about their cancer and the treatments they 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

    Talking about metastatic prostate cancer

    Your friends and relatives might be able to support you and talk to you about your cancer. Sharing can help to increase trust and support between you and make it easier to plan ahead. But some families are scared of the emotions this could bring up. So they may not want to discuss it. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

    It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. You can help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to discuss what’s happening and how you feel.

    You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

    Counselling might help you find ways of coping with your feelings and emotions. You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

    Cancer chat 

    You can chat with other people affected by cancer in our online forum. 

    Specialist nurses

    Specialist nurses can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information

    Physical problems

    Metastatic prostate cancer is likely to cause physical changes in your body. These might include:

    • changes to the way your bowel and bladder work
    • feeling very tired and lacking in energy a lot of the time
    • changes can affect your relationships and sex life
    • pain

    Feeling as well as you can

    It is important that you feel as well as you possibly can. Tell your doctor or nurse about any symptoms you have so they can help to control them.

    Coping financially

    You might have extra expenses due to the cancer. Your specialist nurse or GP can help you get grants for heating costs, holidays or household expenses related to your illness.

    Ask to see a social worker. They can let you know which benefits or grants you can claim and help with the claiming process.  

    Who can help?

    You can get emotional and practical support through your hospital, local hospice and GP practice. You can also get help from charities and support groups.

    Support at home for you and your family

    You might need some care and support at home due to metastatic prostate cancer or its treatment.

    GP

    Your GP manages your healthcare when you are at home. They can help with any medical problems that come up. They can also make referrals to a community service for you. The availability of the different community services may vary, depending on where you live.

    Community or district nurses

    These nurses work in different places in your local area and may visit you in your home. They can:

    • give medicines or injections
    • check temperature, blood pressure and breathing
    • clean and dress wounds
    • monitor or set up drips
    • give emotional support
    • teach basic caring skills to family members where needed
    • get special equipment, such as commodes or bed pans

    Community specialist palliative care nurses

    Community specialist palliative care nurses include Macmillan nurses and hospice nurses. They specialise in symptom management such as pain control, sickness, and other cancer symptoms. They also give emotional support to you and your carers.

    Marie Curie nurses

    Marie Curie nurses give nursing care to people with advanced cancer in their own homes. They can visit during the day or spend the night in your home to give your carers a break.

    Social workers

    Social workers can help to support you with your situation at home. They can arrange:

    • home helps to help with shopping or housework
    • home care assistants for washing and dressing
    • meals on wheels
    • respite care

    Your social worker can also help with money matters by checking you get all the benefits you are entitled to. Or they can advise you about charity grants for things like extra heating costs or special diets.

    Contact a social worker yourself by getting in touch with your local social services office. Or ask your hospital nurse or your GP to refer you.

    Local support services

    There are many other sorts of help you can get. Services vary from place to place.

    Sometimes local voluntary groups offer sitting services. Someone comes to stay with you while your relative goes out.

    Good neighbour schemes offer befriending or practical help with shopping or transport.

    Local cancer support groups often offer practical help. And they are a good source of information about services in your area. Ask your doctor or nurse about local groups.

    Planning

    Thinking about your priorities and planning what you want to do can help you to feel more in control. You might want to talk about how you want to spend your time and what is and isn’t important to you.

    Some of your future plans might no longer be realistic. But you might get round to doing something you always wanted to do but weren’t able to make time for.

    Towards the end of life

    It’s natural to want to find out what is likely to happen in the last few weeks or days of life.

    You might need to choose where you want to be looked after and who you want to care for you.

    You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses if you have questions or want to talk about coping with advanced cancer. Call free on 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
    Last reviewed: 
    22 Sep 2022
    Next review due: 
    22 Sep 2025
    • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer
      National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

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

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

    • Prostate cancer: palliative care and pain relief 
      J C Thompson, J Wood and D Feuer 
      British Medical Bulletin, 2007. Vol 83, Issue 1. Pages 341-354

    • Quality of life in men with metastatic prostate cancer in their final years before death – a retrospective analysis of prospective data
      M Holm and others 
      BMC Palliative Care, 2018. Vol 17, Article number 126. 

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