Staging of prostate cancer
Staging is the process of finding out the extent of the cancer. It is very important because your treatment and the outlook for your recovery depend on the stage of your cancer.
The stage is based on the prostate biopsy results (including the Gleason score), the PSA level, and any other exams or tests that were done to find out how far the cancer has spread. These tests are described in the section, "How is prostate cancer found?"
Putting it all together to get the stage of the cancer
There are different staging systems for prostate cancer. Most doctors use the AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer) system. Many factors are taken into account when deciding the stage of a cancer.
After looking at your test results, the doctor will tell you the stage of your cancer. Be sure to ask your doctor to explain your stage in a way you understand. This will help you work with your doctor to decide on your treatment.
The AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer) staging system
In the AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer) staging system, stages of prostate cancer are labeled using Roman numerals I through IV (1 - 4). As a rule, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV (4), means a more advanced cancer.
You can ask your doctor to explain more about the stage of your cancer and how it relates to your treatment options.
There are really 2 types of staging for prostate cancer. The clinical stage is your doctor's best estimate of the extent of the disease, based on the results of the physical exam, lab tests, biopsy, and any other tests you have had.
If you have surgery, tissue will be removed and looked at in the lab. The results will give the pathological stage. This means that if you have surgery, the stage of your cancer might change. Pathologic staging is likely to be more accurate than clinical staging.
Last Medical Review: 03/09/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013