Small Cell Prostate Cancer: Treatment and coping tips

Small cell prostate cancer is a very rare type of prostate cancer. Most prostate cancers are acinar adenocarcinomas which develop in the glandular cells of the prostate gland. Fewer than 2 in 100 prostate cancers (2%) are small cell. The cells look small and round under a microscope. They are also sometimes called oat cell cancers. This article: Small Cell Prostate Cancer: Treatment and coping tips will prove helpful to those who are having this challenge.

About half of the men who have small cell prostate cancers have a mixture of small cells and other cells.

The symptoms of small cell prostate cancer are similar to other types of prostate cancer. They include

  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Passing urine more often than usual
  • Pain passing urine
  • Blood in the urine (this is rare)

Some men with small cell prostate cancer also have paraneoplastic syndrome. This is when you have high levels of particular hormones or other substances in the body which cause symptoms. The symptoms can include pins and needles, muscle cramps, sickness and changes in your blood.

The blood level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in men with small cell prostate cancer is often normal, or only slightly higher than normal, even if the cancer has spread. Men who have adenocarcinoma usually have a high amount of PSA in their blood, especially when their cancer has spread.

Small cell cancers tend to grow more quickly than adenocarcinomas. And they are more likely to spread to other parts of the body (metastasise). The most common part of the body for acinar adenocarcinomas to spread to is the bone. Small cell cancers are more likely to spread to other organs in the body, such as the lungs or liver.

Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer (the size and how far the cancer has spread). Most small cell prostate cancers have spread outside the prostate gland when they are diagnosed. If the cancer has spread, the aim of treatment is to control the cancer for as long as possible. The treatment also reduces symptoms and gives you as good a quality of life as possible.

The treatment for small cell cancers of the prostate is different from acinar adenocarcinomas. Doctors are more likely to treat small cell prostate cancer with chemotherapy. Hormone therapy does not often work for this type of prostate cancer. Treatments may include the following:

Chemotherapy

As the cancer has usually spread, the main treatment is chemotherapy. The aim of chemotherapy is to control the cancer and any symptoms you have. You may have etoposide with cisplatin. Other drugs used include ifosfamide and doxorubicin.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can help to shrink the tumour in the prostate and so control the cancer. It can also reduce any symptoms you have. Radiotherapy can also control symptoms if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.

Surgery

If the tumour is just within the prostate gland, it may require surgery before or after chemotherapy but this is rare. Surgery means taking out the whole of your prostate gland. Unfortunately, surgery is often not possible because the cancer has usually already spread outside the prostate gland when it is diagnosed.

Because small cell cancer of the prostate is rare, it is harder to research than other more common types of prostate cancer. Small cell cancers can develop in almost any part of the body. The most common place for them to start is the lung.

Research has looked into using some of the newer chemotherapy drugs and biological therapies for small cell lung cancer. The research looks promising but it is not clear if these treatments will work in the same way for small cell prostate cancers.

How to Cope with cancer

Coping with a rare condition can be difficult, both practically and emotionally. Being well informed about the condition and its treatment can help to make decisions and cope with what happens.

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You can find additional information in coping with emotional, practical and physical aspect of cancer by visiting Cancer Research Uk.

Talking to other people who have the same health challenge might prove helpful in coping . But it can be hard to find people who have had a rare type of cancer.

Additional Information and analysis based on Cancer Research Centre UK

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