Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Select An Article
Font Size

Prostate Cancer Grading

Like staging, grading levels are also assigned to prostate cancer cases. Grading takes place after a biopsy (removal and examination of tissue) is done. The tissue samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis by a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing disease by looking at these samples.

If cancer is present, the pathologist will assign a grade for the cancer. The grade refers to the cancer's appearance and indicates how quickly a cancer is growing. Most pathologists grade prostate cancer according to the Gleason score, which assigns a grade from 1 to 5 based on how the cancerous cells look compared to normal prostate cells.

Recommended Related to Prostate Cancer

What Causes Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer affects mainly older men. Four out of five cases are diagnosed in men over 65, but less than 1% in men under 50. Though uncommon, prostate cancer can be seen in men even in their 30's and 40's. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to develop prostate cancer than the general population. On a case-by-case basis, doctors cannot say with certainty what causes prostate cancer, but experts generally agree that diet contributes to the risk. Men who consume large...

Read the What Causes Prostate Cancer? article > >

Grade 1. The cancerous tissue looks very much like normal prostate cells.
Grades 2 to 4. Some cells do look like normal prostate cells, others do not. Patterns of cells in these grades vary.
Grade 5. The cells appear abnormal and do not look like normal prostate cells. They appear to be scattered haphazardly throughout the prostate.

The higher the Gleason score, the more likely it is that the cancer will grow and spread rapidly. Pathologists often identify the two most common patterns of cells in the tissue, assign a Gleason grade to each, and add the two grades. The result is a number between two and 10. A Gleason score of less than six indicates a less aggressive cancer. A grade seven and up is considered more aggressive.

Other Test Results

Sometimes, when a pathologist looks at the prostate cells under the microscope, they don't look cancerous, but they're not quite normal, either. These results are often reported as "suspicious" and fall into one of two categories, either atypical or prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN).

PIN is often further divided into low grade and high grade. The significance of low-grade PIN in relation to prostate cancer remains unclear. Many men have it when they are young and never develop prostate cancer.

Biopsy results that fall into either atypical or high-grade PIN are suspicious for the presence of prostate cancer in another portion of the gland. There is a 30% to 50% likelihood of finding prostate cancer in a later biopsy when high-grade PIN is initially discovered. For this reason, repeat biopsies are generally recommended.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD, FACP on July 31, 2013
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Prostate Cancer Overview
SLIDESHOW
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
Prostate Exam
VIDEO
Prostate Nerve Transplant
VIDEO
 
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
FEATURE
 
Prostate Enlarged
VIDEO
Picture Of The Prostate
ANATOMY
 
Prostate Cancer Quiz
QUIZ
screening tests for men
SLIDESHOW
 
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
VIDEO
Vitamin D
SLIDESHOW