Stage of cancer

Staging is a way of describing the size of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and how far it has spread in the body. It is important for predicting how your disease may progress. It will also be something that the doctor takes into account when recommending the best treatment options for you.

There are a number of different methods for naming the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. stages, and more detail on each of these follows below.

This page gives detail on:

Different people and doctors use different systems and this can be confusing. The most important measure of any of these staging systems is whether the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is still within the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. and hasn't spread beyond it.

TNM staging

TNM (tumour, nodes, metastasesSecondary tumours’ that result from the spread of a malignant tumour to other parts of the body.) staging is a complicated system for the stages, using letters and numbers to describe where the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is in the body. This method is explained below. However, you will probably not need to know about cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. staging in such detail.

T describes the tumour:

  • T1: the tumour is within the prostate, and is too small to be felt by DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage.. It may be detected by a PSA test, biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. or some other surgery. T1 tumours generally cause no symptoms. Tumours can also be classified into types T1a, T1b and T1c, based on how much of the tissue is affected
  • T2: the tumour is still within the prostate but can be felt by DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage.. Tumours can also be classified into types T2a, T2b and T2c, based on how big the tumour is
  • T3: the tumour has spread locally outside of the prostate. A tumour can also be classified as type T3a or T3b, based on the whether or not it has spread into the seminal vesicles
  • T4: the tumour has spread to other body organs, such as the bladderThe organ that stores urine. or rectum.

N describes the size of the lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes. (the bigger they are, the more cancerousMalignant, a tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.):

  • N0: no cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells found in any lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes.
  • N1: one positive lymph node smaller than 2 cm across
  • N2: more than one positive lymph node or one node that is between 2 and 5 cm across
  • N3: any positive lymph node that is bigger than 5 cm across.

M describes the spread of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. around the body (metastasisThe spread of a malignant tumour to other parts of the body.) and is assessed by a bone scanAn imaging test that uses radioactive substances to evaluate the whole musculoskeletal system.:

  • M0: no cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. spread outside the pelvis
  • M1: cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread outside the pelvis. Tumours can also be classified into types M1a (spread to distant lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes.), M1b (bone) and M1c (other sites, regardless of bone involvement).

The four basic stages

This system is based on the four basic stages of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.:

  • Stage 1: The tumour is within the prostate and is too small to be felt by DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage.
  • Stage 2: The tumour is still inside the prostate, but is large enough to be felt as a lump or hard area by DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage. or seen on an ultrasound
  • Stage 3: The cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread outside the prostate and may have grown into the seminal vesicles
  • Stage 4: The cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has grown into the neck of the bladderThe organ that stores urine., rectum or pelvicRelating to the pelvis. wall, or has spread to the lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes. or another part of the body.

Localised, locally-advanced and metastatic

This method is similar to the four basic stages. It is based on whether the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is still within the prostate A gland that surrounds the urethra near the bladder. It produces a fluid that forms part of the semen. (localised), or has spread just outside the prostate A gland that surrounds the urethra near the bladder. It produces a fluid that forms part of the semen. (locally-advanced) or to more distant sites in the body, such as the lymph nodesSmall swellings along the lymphatic system that filter lymph, a fluid derived from the blood, and produce antibodies and a type of white blood cells, lymphocytes. or bones (metastatic).

At sixpartswater, we will use the 'localised, locally-advanced and metastatic' system when talking about the different treatment options for prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Learn about Prognosis estimates - use this page if you prefer to know estimated percentages of men who typically survive five years after diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. of different types of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. This page also explains risk groups in localised prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..