What is Staging?
If cancer is found in the prostate, the doctor needs to know the stage of the disease and the grade of the tumor. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, what parts of the body are affected. The grade tells how closely the tumor resembles normal tissue in appearance under the microscope.
Doctors use various blood and imaging tests to learn the stage of the disease. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, produce pictures of images inside the body.
Stages of Prostate Cancer
There are four stages used to describe prostate cancer. Doctors may refer to the stages using the Roman numerals I-IV or the capital letters A-D. The higher the stage, the more advanced the cancer. Following are the main features of each stage.
Stage I or Stage A -- The cancer is too small to be felt during a rectal exam and causes no symptoms. The doctor may find it by accident when performing surgery for another reason, usually an enlarged prostate. There is no evidence that the cancer has spread outside the prostate. A sub-stage, T1c, is a tumor identified by needle biopsy because of elevated PSA.
Stage II or Stage B -- The tumor is still confined to the prostate but involves more tissue within the prostate. The cancer is large enough to be felt during a rectal exam, or it may be found through a biopsy that is done because of a high PSA level. There is no evidence that the cancer has spread outside the prostate.
Stage III or Stage C -- The cancer has spread outside the prostate to nearby tissues. A man may be experiencing symptoms, such as problems with urination.
Stage IV or Stage D -- The cancer has spread to lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. The bones are a common site of spread of prostate cancer. There may be problems with urination, fatigue, and weight loss.