What Occurs During The Different Stages of Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is an infection of the prostate which causes abnormal growth of cells on the prostate gland. Prostate cancer is known to inhabit the body of an individual for a long time before displaying any symptoms. During the first stages of the cancer, it is possible for a person to live for years without observing any symptoms.
Prostate cancer is analyzed through stages depending on the extent of the cancer in the body. There are a number of ways used to determine how far it has spread. The American Joint Committee Cancer (AJCC) TNM system is commonly used.
What Is The TNM System?
There are 5 main things analyzed through the TNM system. They include:
- The level of PSA when you are diagnosed.
- How far the tumor (category T) has spread.
- If the cancer has affected the lymph nodes. (category N)
- If the cancer has reached other parts of the body. (category M)
- The Gleason score
The Tumor Extent (Category T)
This category is analysed through 4 stages that range between T1 and T4 as explained below:
- In T1 the tumor can neither be felt by the doctor nor is it seen through imaging. It is further subdivided into:
T1 a) Here the cancer is usually detected by accident and it will have affected less than 5% of the prostate gland.
T1 b) The cancer has affected slightly more than 5% of the gland.
T1 c) A needle biopsy test is done to detect it due to an increase in PSA.
- In stage T2, a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) is used to feel the cancer. It is divide into 3 stages based on its extent over the prostate gland:
T2 a) The cancer will have affected only 50% of one side of the gland.
T2 b) The cancer has spread to more than 50% of one side of the gland.
T2 c) The cancer has affected both sides of the glands.
- In T3, the cancer will have spread close to or to the seminal vesicles.
T3 a) Here the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland, but it is yet to reach the seminal vesicles.
T3 b) The seminal vesicles have already been affected by the cancer.
- In the stage T4 the extent of the cancer will have spread beyond the prostate gland and the seminal vesicles. It may have affected other tissues and organs such as the bladder and rectum.
The Lymph Node (N) Category
This explains whether the cancer has affected the surrounding lymph nodes. It is a stage meant specifically for lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are the closest to the prostate.
The Body Part (M) Category
This explains whether the cancer has crossed over to other parts of the body such as the liver, bones and lungs.
The PSA Level and Gleason Score
These two are determined only if they are available. The results of these tests together with the TNM results determine the general stages of prostate cancer.
The Bottom Line
Prostate cancer therefore occurs in different stages depending on how much it has affected the body tissues and parts. The earlier the detection of the cancer, the easier it will be to cure it. Should symptoms appear, consult a doctor as soon as possible.