The Process of Staging Prostate Cancer
When prostate cancer spreads, it’s often found in nearby lymph nodes. If cancer has reached these nodes, it also may have spread to other lymph nodes, the bones, or other organs.
When cancer spreads from its original place to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if prostate cancer spreads to bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually prostate cancer cells. The disease is metastatic prostate cancer, not bone cancer. For that reason, it’s treated as prostate cancer, not bone cancer. Doctors call the new tumor “distant” or metastatic disease.
There are 4 stages of prostate cancer:
- Stage I: Stage I cancer can’t be felt during a digital rectal exam, and it can’t be seen on a sonogram. It’s found by chance when surgery is done for another reason, usually for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). The cancer is limited to the prostate. The grade is G1, or the Gleason score is no higher than 4.
- Stage II: The tumor is more advanced or a higher grade than Stage I, but the tumor doesn’t extend beyond the prostate. It may be felt during a digital rectal exam, or it may be seen on a sonogram.
- Stage III: The tumor extends beyond the prostate. The tumor may have invaded the seminal vesicles, but cancer cells haven’t spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: The tumor may have invaded the bladder, rectum, or nearby structures (beyond the seminal vesicles). It may have spread to the lymph nodes, bones, or to other parts of the body.