Staging is a term that is used to describe if a cancer has spread from where it first began. Prostate cancer staging is commonly described as:
Most of the time, tests such as an MRI scan or a CT scan are not very good at telling your doctor how much prostate cancer is present or whether it has spread.
Rarely, your doctor can feel a prostate cancer during a rectal exam. Sometimes a test called a bone scan will be done to see if the cancer has spread to your bones (a common place for the cancer to go).
However, your doctor will also use other information, to help guide treatment and follow-up and give you some idea of what to expect in the future. Other information includes:
It is important to understand that only if and when you have surgery to remove the prostate gland can you and your doctor know for certain what the stage of your prostate cancer is.
However, using your symptoms, physical exam, and results of tests described just above, your doctors will often have a pretty good idea which stage of prostate cancer you have.
Antonarakis ES, Eisenberger MA. Expanding treatment options for metastatic prostate cancer. N Engl J Med. 2011 May 26;364(21):2055-8.
Wilt TJ, MacDonald R, et al. Systematic review: comparative effectiveness and harms of treatments for clinically localized prostate cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(6):435-448.
Prostate Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Last Modified: 06/01/2011
Updated by: Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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