Skip to content
    Select An Article

    Stages of Prostate Cancer

    Font Size

    Like other forms of cancer, the prognosis for prostate cancer depends on how far the cancer has spread at the time it’s diagnosed. Doctors use a system of classification called staging to describe prostate cancer’s local extent and evidence of spread.

    Prostate cancer stages can be complex and difficult to understand. WebMD takes a look at prostate cancer stages and what they mean to you.

    Recommended Related to Prostate Cancer

    Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial: What to Expect

    A clinical trial could mean a big change in the type of care you're getting now. You may get a cutting-edge treatment that few people have had before. Before you join, learn about how it works and what it will be like for you.

    Read the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trial: What to Expect article > >

    Prostate Cancer Stages: Growth and Spread

    Prostate cancer grows locally within the prostate, often for many years. Eventually, prostate cancer extends outside the prostate. Prostate cancer can spread beyond the prostate in three ways:

    • By growing into neighboring tissues (invasion)
    • By spreading through the lymph system of lymph nodes and lymph vessels
    • By traveling to distant tissues through the blood (metastasis)

    Prostate cancer stages describe the precise extent of prostate cancer’s spread.

    Tests to Identify Prostate Cancer Stage

    After a prostate cancer diagnosis, tests are done to detect how the cancer has spread, if it has, outside the prostate. Not all men need every test. It depends on the characteristics of a man’s prostate cancer seen on biopsy. Tests to help determine the stage of prostate cancer include:

    • Digital rectal exam
    • Prostate-specific antigen (blood test)
    • Transrectal ultrasound
    • MRI of the prostate using a rectal probe
    • CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis, looking for prostate cancer metastasis to other organs
    • MRI of the skeleton, or a nuclear medicine bone scan, to look for metastasis to bones
    • Surgery to examine the lymph nodes in the pelvis for any prostate cancer spread

    The TNM System for Prostate Cancer Stages

    As they do for most cancers, doctors use the TNM system of prostate cancer stages. The prostate cancer stages are described using three different aspects of tumor growth and spread. It’s called the TNM system for tumor, nodes, and metastasis:

    • T -- for tumor -- describes the size of the main area of prostate cancer.
    • N -- for nodes -- describes whether prostate cancer has spread to any lymph nodes and to what extent.
    • M -- for metastasis -- means distant spread of prostate cancer, for example, to the bones or liver.

    There are other ways of classifying prostate cancer, such as the Gleason system. Sometimes, the TNM system and Gleason score are combined together to describe prostate cancer stage.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    man with doctor
    Symptoms, risks, treatments
    man coughing
    Men shouldn’t ignore
    prostate cancer cells
    What does this diagnosis mean?
    doctor and male patient
    Is it worth it?
    cancer fighting foods
    15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
    Prostate Enlarged
    Picture Of The Prostate
    Prostate Cancer Quiz
    screening tests for men
    Prostate Cancer Symptoms
    Vitamin D