How is Advanced Prostate Cancer Staged?


If the biopsy finds cancer, the pathologist gives it a grade. The grade is a measure of how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. The most common grading system is called the Gleason score. Scores go from 2 to 10. To find a tumor's grade, the pathologist scores each bit of tissue from the biopsy. The pathologist then adds the two most common scores together. This is the Gleason score. A score of 2 to 4 shows low aggressiveness. But scores these low are almost never seen.

The lowest score found is usually 5. That is the least aggressive score most men can get. A Gleason score of 6 is more aggressive. Gleason 7 tumors show even higher aggressiveness. There are two types of these scores. A 4+3 tumor is more aggressive than a 3+4 tumor. That's because more of the higher aggressive grade tumor was found. Gleason 8, 9 and 10 tumors are the most aggressive. They usually have already spread by the time they are found. Talk to your health care provider about your Gleason score.

The Gleason Scale


Tumor stage shows the size and spread of the cancer. Cancer in only a small part of the prostate is more treatable than cancer that has spread all through it. Tumors found only in the prostate are more successfully treated than those that have metastasized (spread) outside the prostate. Tumors that have spread to places far from the prostate, like to lymph nodes or bone, have the poorest results.

Tumor, Nodes and Metastasis (TNM) is the system used for tumor staging.

Tumor, Nodes and Metastasis (TNM)

Using the "T" part of the system, prostate cancer is staged as:

  • T1: Health care provider cannot feel the tumor
  • T1a: Cancer present in less than 5% of the tissue removed and low grade (Gleason < 6)
  • T1b: Cancer present in more than 5% of the tissue removed or is of a higher grade (Gleason > 6)
  • T1c: Cancer found by needle biopsy done because of a high PSA
  • T2: Health care provider can feel the tumor with a DRE but the tumor is confined to prostate
  • T2a: Cancer found in one half or less of one side (left or right) of the prostate
  • T2b: Cancer found in more than half of one side (left or right) of the prostate
  • T2c: Cancer found in both sides of the prostate
  • T3: Cancer has begun to spread outside the prostate and may involve the seminal vesicles
  • T3a: Cancer extends outside the prostate but not to the seminal vesicles
  • T3b: Cancer has spread to the seminal vesicles
  • T4: Cancer has spread to nearby organs such as the urethral sphincter, rectum, bladder, or pelvis wall
  • N0 stage, there is no sign of the cancer moving to the lymph nodes in the area of the prostate.
  • M0 stage, there is no sign of tumor metastasis.
  • If the cancer is spreading to the lymph node or if the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, the stage is changed. It becomes either N1, for node, and/or M1, for metastasis.

Prostate Cancer Stage Groupings

Imaging Tests

Prostate cancer staging
Prostate cancer staging
© 2010 Terese Winslow, U.S. Govt. has certain rights

Prostate cancer usually spreads from the prostate into nearby tissues. Then it can spread to the seminal vesicles, lymph nodes, bones, lungs, and other organs. Your doctor may want imaging tests to see how far your cancer has spread. These include a pelvic CT, MRI or a bone scan.

Hope for advanced prostate cancer?

There is no cure for advanced prostate cancer. 29,430 deaths from prostate cancer are predicted in the U.S. this year. But advances in science mean cancer growth can be slowed. Treatment can also reduce cancer-related symptoms so you feel better. New therapies are improving survival and quality of life, especially for men with no cancer-related pain.