Stages of Prostate Cancer: What You Need to Know

Sep 15 • 2016

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and if you’ve recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, we’re here to help you understand what that means. Many people struggle with understanding how different types of cancer are staged and what each stage means. We’ve outline the four stages below.

The TNM System

Doctors use the TNM system when determining stages – this is common with most cancers. TNM stands for tumor, nodes, and metastasis.

  • T: the size of the area of cancer
  • N: notes whether and how much the cancer has spread to lymph nodes
  • M: how far throughout the rest of the body the cancer has spread

Stage 1

Stage 1 of prostate cancer is the earliest stage. This means that the cancer is only located within the prostate and prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is below 10. While men can experience cancer with a PSA at any level, traditionally healthy men have a PSA of 4. The higher than number gets and the more quickly it grows, your chance of having prostate cancer get larger.

An important thing to note is that prostate cancer is microscopic during this stage. Because of this, it won’t be felt on a digital rectal exam on seen with traditional imaging.

Stage 2

Stage 2 is still limited to the prostate, but it can involve more than one-half of the lobe or both lobes. It has not yet spread to other organs, but is impacting more of your prostate than stage 1 cancer and is growing more quickly. From this stage forward, a DRE can detect cancer.

Stage 3

During stage 3, cancer has begun to spread outside of the prostate. However, it has only moved to areas nearby the prostate, like seminal vesicles and other tissues within the area. At this point, it hasn’t reached the lymph nodes or organs located farther from the prostate.

Stage 4

Once prostate cancer has reached stage 4, the cancer has metastasized outside of the prostate into other tissues throughout the body. The most common places for prostate cancer to spread are the bones, lymph nodes, lungs, liver, bladder, and rectum.

Knowing the correct stage of prostate cancer helps a doctor determine the best method of treatment and allows them to provide the most accurate prognosis for the disease. Because of this, patients typically experience a wide range of tests in order to ensure proper diagnosis. If you have questions about your current stage of prostate cancer or would like more information about your prognosis, speak with your doctor today.