Prostate Cancer Staging System

Following a biopsy that has tested positive for cancer it will be necessary to carry out further tests and to compare previous tests so that a doctor can make an assessment of your condition, this process is known as staging. Some of the tests that a doctor can make use of when working out which stage your cancer is at include the DRE, biopsy, and digital imagining of the prostate.

Why use a staging system for prostate cancer?

The use of a staging system enables doctors to diagnose how far a cancer has spread and to compare like cases with like cases, this enables them to give the best decisions that they can on how to treat your prostate cancer. The most commonly used system is known as the TNM staging system. Other systems in use include the Whitmore-Jewett system.

The TNM staging system is split into two main categories, one is aimed at giving a clinical information and the other pathological information, the latter is only given when people have undergone treatments.

The TMN staging classification scale

Prostate Cancer T stages

The T stages of the TMN classification are given a number of between 0 and 4 (eg T2), this is often followed by the use of a letter to give further information (eg T2a).

Here is an overview of the main prostate cancer T stages.

T1– the doctor is unable to feel the prostate cancer during a DRE or through imaging.

In this case it is likely that the prostate cancer was diagnosed as a result of tests carried out due to high PSA levels.

T2 – the doctor can feel the cancer when performing a DRE

In this case the letters a,b,c are used to describe how much of the cancer can be felt, with a being the lowest and c the highest.

T3 – The cancer is beginning to spread outside of the prostate via the seminal vessels

T4 – The cancer has spread beyond the prostate

Prostate Cancer N stages

The N stages are used to describe the spread of cance3r to the lymph nodes:

N0 – the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes

N1 – the cancer has spread to at least one pelvic lymph node

Prostate Cancer M stages

These stages are used to describe the spread of cancer to the bones and to distant lymoh nodes:

M0 – Cancer is isolated to local lymph nodes

M1 - Cancer has spread outside the local lymph nodes

M1a - Cancer is present in distant lymph nodes

M1b – cancer has spread to the bones

M1c – cancer has spread to other organs

We hope that this section of the site has helped you better understand how the prostate staging system is used in order to describe the spread of prostate cancer. Please see the section on prostate cancer stages to get a further understanding of how the system is used in conjunction with a gleason score to group cancer stages. As always if you are unsure of anything do not hesitate to ask your doctor for advice, they are there to help you through this difficult stage of your life and will be happy to explain things to you that you in further detail.

© Prostate Cancer Guide inc. 2006 - 2015