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Prostate Cancer Treatment (Patient) (cont.)

Stages of Prostate Cancer

After prostate cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the prostate or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the prostate or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:

  • Radionuclide bone scan: A procedure to check if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
    Bone scan; drawing shows patient lying on a table that slides under the scanner, a technician operating the scanner, and a monitor that will show images made during the scan.
    Bone scan. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the patient's bloodstream and collects in abnormal cells in the bones. As the patient lies on a table that slides under the scanner, the radioactive material is detected and images are made on a computer screen or film.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • Pelvic lymphadenectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the lymph nodes in the pelvis. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • Seminal vesicle biopsy: The removal of fluid from the seminal vesicles (glands that produce semen) using a needle. A pathologist views the fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

The stage of the cancer is based on the results of the staging and diagnostic tests, including the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and the original tumorbiopsy. The biopsy is used to determine the Gleason score. The Gleason score ranges from 2-10 and describes how different the cancer cells look from normal cells and how likely it is that the tumor will spread. The lower the number, the less likely the tumor is to spread.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:

  • Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
  • Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
  • Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.

When cancer cells break away from the primary (original) tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another (secondary) tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.

The following stages are used for prostate cancer:

Prostate cancer staging; six panel drawing showing a side view of normal male anatomy and closeup views of Stage I, Stage IIA, Stage IIB, Stage III, and Stage IV showing cancer growing from within the prostate to nearby tissue and then to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
As prostate cancer progresses from Stage I to Stage IV, the cancer cells grow within the prostate, through the outer layer of the prostate into nearby tissue, and then to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Stage I

In stage I, cancer is found in the prostate only. The cancer:

  • is found by needle biopsy (such as for a high PSA level) or in a small amount of tissue during surgery for other reasons (such as benign prostatic hyperplasia). The PSA level is lower than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or lower; or
  • is found in one-half or less of one lobe of the prostate. The PSA level is lower than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or lower; or
  • cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam and is not visible by imaging. Cancer is found in one-half or less of one lobe of the prostate. The PSA level and the Gleason score are not known.

Stage II

In stage II, cancer is more advanced than in stage I, but has not spread outside the prostate. Stage II is divided into stage IIA and stage IIB.

In stage IIA, cancer:

  • is found by needle biopsy (such as for a high PSA level) or in a small amount of tissue during surgery for other reasons (such as benign prostatic hyperplasia). The PSA level is lower than 20 and the Gleason score is 7; or
  • is found by needle biopsy (such as for a high PSA level) or in a small amount of tissue during surgery for other reasons (such as benign prostatic hyperplasia). The PSA level is at least 10 but lower than 20 and the Gleason score is 6 or lower; or
  • is found in one-half or less of one lobe of the prostate. The PSA level is at least 10 but lower than 20 and the Gleason score is 6 or lower; or
  • is found in one-half or less of one lobe of the prostate. The PSA level is lower than 20 and the Gleason score is 7; or
  • is found in more than one-half of one lobe of the prostate. The PSA level is lower than 20 and the Gleason score is 7 or lower; or
  • is found in more than one-half of one lobe of the prostate. The PSA level and the Gleason score are not known.

In stage IIB, cancer:

  • is found in both lobes of the prostate. The PSA can be any level and the Gleason score can range from 2 to 10; or
  • cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam and is not visible by imaging, and the tumor has not spread outside the prostate. The PSA level is 20 or higher and the Gleason score can range from 2 to 10; or
  • cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam and is not visible by imaging, and the tumor has not spread outside the prostate. The PSA can be any level and the Gleason score is 8 or higher.

Stage III

In stage III, cancer has spread beyond the outer layer of the prostate on one or both sides and may have spread to the seminal vesicles. The PSA can be any level and the Gleason score can range from 2 to 10.

Stage IV

In stage IV, the PSA can be any level and the Gleason score can range from 2 to 10. Also, cancer:

  • has spread beyond the seminal vesicles to nearby tissue or organs, such as the rectum, bladder, or pelvic wall; or
  • may have spread to the seminal vesicles or to nearby tissue or organs, such as the rectum, bladder, or pelvic wall. Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes; or
  • has spread to distant parts of the body, which may include lymph nodes or bones. Prostate cancer often spreads to the bones.
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eMedicineHealth Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

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