When you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, the doctor will determine how far the disease has progressed and tell you what stage the cancer is in. The staging shows how the tumor has grown and if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It’s important to know this information so that patients can start the correct course of treatment.
Here are the four recognized stages of prostate cancer:
Stage 1 refers to an early-stage diagnosis of prostate cancer and means that the tumor is in just one-half or less of one side of the prostate. At this stage, the tumor cannot be picked up on any imaging machines and cannot be felt in a digital rectum exam. The cancer is still confined to the prostate and hasn’t spread to any other parts of the body. Stage 1 prostate cancer will have a Gleason score below six and a PSA score below 10.
Stage 2 prostate cancer is split into stage 2A and 2B. In stage 2A, the cancer will still be confined to one-half of one side of the prostate and won’t have spread. The Gleason score will be 7 or under, and the PSA score will be 20 or under. At this stage, it still won’t be picked up via imaging or a digital rectum exam.
Stage 2B prostate cancer can be felt with a digital rectum exam and is now able to be picked up with imaging techniques. The cancer has now spread to the other side of the prostate, but not to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. It will have a Gleason score of 8 or higher and a PSA score of 20 or higher.
Stage 3 is when the cancer has spread from the prostate and could now be in the seminal vesicles, but the lymph nodes and other parts of the body remain unaffected. Both the Gleason score and the PSA score can be of any value at this point.
Stage 4 prostate cancer is where the cancer has spread into other tissues surrounding the prostate including the rectum, bladder, pelvic wall or the urethral sphincter. It may also have spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. At this stage, the Gleason and PSA scores can be of any level.