If your doctor finds cancer in your prostate gland, the next step is to find out the stage, or extent, of the disease. The goal of staging is to determine whether the cancer has spread and, if so, what areas of the body are affected. Various blood and imaging tests can help pinpoint the stage of the disease. Treatment decisions depend on these findings.
TNM is the common staging system used in the United States for prostate cancer. The system evaluates and describes:
- The size and location of the primary prostate tumor (T).
- If the cancer has metastasized to lymph nodes (N).
- If the cancer has metastasized elsewhere (M).
There are two types of stages:
- Clinical Stage — Based on the digital rectal exam, needle biopsy or transrectal ultrasound results.
- Pathological Stage — Based on surgical removal of the entire prostate gland, the seminal vesicles and possibly lymph nodes.