Prostate Cancer Library
Asking Your Doctor About Prostate Cancer
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If cancer is found in your prostate, your doctor needs to know the stage, or extent, of the disease. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, what parts of the body are affected. Your doctor may use various blood and imaging tests to learn the stage of the disease. Treatment decisions depend on these findings. Prostate cancer staging is a complex process. Your doctor may describe staging using the Tumor-Nodes-Metastasis (TNM) system:
T1a/b -- The cancer cannot be felt during a rectal exam, but is discovered incidentally when prostate surgery is performed for another reason.
T1c -- The cancer cannot be felt during a rectal exam, but is discovered due to an elevated serum PSA level.
T2a -- The cancer is felt on one side of the prostate during a rectal exam.
T2b -- The cancer is felt on both sides of the prostate during a rectal exam.
T3a -- The cancer has spread outside the prostate to nearby tissues.
T3b -- The cancer has spread to the seminal vesicles, glands at the base of the bladder that are connected to the prostate.
T4 -- The cancer has spread to adjacent organs such as the bladder or rectum.
N0 -- Prostate cancer has not spread to lymph nodes.
N+ -- Lymph nodes are involved with prostate cancer.
M0 -- There is no evidence of distant spread or metastases from prostate cancer.
M+ -- The prostate cancer has spread or metastasized to other locations in the body such as the bones, liver or lung.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.
Last updated April 19, 2007