The Four Stages of Prostate Cancer
Once prostate cancer is discovered, doctors then determine the stage of the cancer in order to discern how far the cancer has spread and plan an appropriate treatment. Physicians use bone scans, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography scans, ultrasound and needle biopsies to determine the stage of a cancer. Tests specific to prostate cancer include the prostate-specific antigen test. When needle biopsies are done, Gleason scores are assigned to the tissue examined. The higher the Gleason score, the more likely the tumor is to spread.
In Stage I of prostate cancer, the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. Cancer cells aren't visible at this stage and don't show up on imaging tests. Stage I prostate cancer is caught by biopsies. The survival rate for Stage I prostate cancer is close to 100 percent.
Stage II prostate cancer is also limited to the prostate, though often it has spread to both lobes of the prostate gland. It is still only detectable by needle biopsy, rather than by imaging tests. About 80 percent of prostate cancer is caught at Stages I or II, and Stage II survival rates are similar to those of Stage I.
In Stage III prostate cancer, cancer cells have spread beyond the prostate into the seminal vesicles nearby. Survival rates are still high at this stage, with a 10-year survival rate of about 99 percent and a 15-year survival rate of 94 percent.
Prostate cancer is determined to be Stage IV when it has spread to nearby tissue or organs. Organs most often affected first include the bladder and rectum. Beyond that, prostate cancer is most likely to metastasize to the liver, lungs and bones, as well as nearby lymph nodes.
Once prostate cancer is diagnosed, a patient should consult his doctor immediately to determine both prognosis and the appropriate course of treatment. While extensive testing is often needed to stage a case of prostate cancer correctly, undergoing the tests can be vital to beginning treatment.