When a doctor is diagnosing a man’s prostate cancer, the physician will analyze both the growth as well as the spread of the cancer to determine its stage. The stages range from 1 to 4, with 4 being the most aggressive and advanced. These stages are used as guides to determine the best treatment options, and to offer prognoses to their patients.
The staging of prostate cancer is based on several factors as determined by one or more prostate cancer screening tests. These tests include a digital rectal exam (DRE), a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, and imaging tests. Imaging tests can include bone scans, CRT scans, MRIs, and transrectal ultrasound.
How Is Prostate Cancer Staged?
To identify the exact stage of a patient’s prostate cancer, doctors usually begin by using what we call a TNM staging system. This system helps doctors in defining different aspects concerning the cancer’s growth.
● T (Tumor) – The size and extent of the Tumor
● N (Node) – Whether the cancer has reached the Lymph Nodes
● M (Metastasis) – Whether the cancer has spread (Metastasized) to other organs in the body
Each of these categories is scored based on a certain set of criteria. With a score of T1, for example, it means that the doctor cannot see nor feel the tumor, but it was found via biopsy or a very high PSA number. Meanwhile, a T3 score would indicate that the tumor has started to grow outside of the prostate.
When the TNM categories are calculated, the doctor will then combine the entire TNM score with the patient’s PSA levels and Gleason score, which is the aggressiveness of the tumor cells. Together, these are used to assign a specific stage to the patient’s cancer.
What Do the Prostate Cancer Stages Mean?
Let’s talk about the variables involved in each of the four stages of prostate cancer:
Stage 1 Prostate Cancer (I)
In stage 1, there are already cancerous cells, but the tumor is small and is only affecting a single area. The PSA levels and Gleason scores are still low, and there may not be any noticeable symptoms yet.
At this stage, the tumor may not yet be detectable by an imaging test or a physical examination. It has not spread outside of the prostate. When discovering prostate cancer at this stage, there is almost a 100% 5-year survival rate.
Routine screening may be able to detect the cancer at this early stage, making immediate treatment possible.
Stage 2 Prostate Cancer (IIA and IIB)
Here, the tumor may or may not be detectable via physical examination or imaging tests. Similarly, it has not yet spread outside of the prostate. However, the cancer cells may now have a higher Gleason score, which means they might grow more quickly at this point.
● Stage IIA – The tumor cannot be felt yet in a DRE by the doctor. The PSA is at a moderate level, and the cancer cells are differentiated (matured) well. Stage IIA can also include larger tumors that are confined to the prostate but are well-differentiated.
● Stage IIB – The tumor may now be large enough to be felt or detected by the doctor during a DRE. PSA levels are still moderate, but the cancer cells are now moderately differentiated. (Less differentiation, or maturity, of the cancer cells can indicate a more aggressive cancer.)
Stage 3 Prostate Cancer (III)
In Stage 3, the prostate cancer may or may not have spread beyond the prostate, but the other indicators are high (Gleason, PSA). Along with that, the tumor is fairly aggressive.
Stage 4 Prostate Cancer (IV)
This means the tumor has spread to one or more other parts of the body like the bladder, lymph nodes, lungs, liver, or bones. At this stage, treatments may be able to slow down or shrink the tumor.
Prostate Cancer Screening in Phoenix, Arizona
There are many exciting advances in successfully treating prostate cancer at all stages. The survival rate of men with this disease is increasing exponentially thanks to new technologies and treatments.
Get screened for prostate cancer to ensure early diagnosis and treatment. Here at Ironwood Urology, Dr. Desi Avila can check your PSA score and ensure you remain cancer-free – and, if you do develop prostate cancer, he can provide treatment that works.
If you have questions about prostate health or would like to schedule a consultation, contact us today by calling us at (480) 961-2323 or request an appointment online now. Let us be your healthcare partner for a lifetime of health and wellness!