Staging of prostate cancer

Many kinds of cancer have staging systems that help doctors decide what treatments to choose. The stages of cancer are based on where and how far it has grown. The most common staging system for prostate cancer is the TNM system, which labels the cancer in three categories: the size of the tumor (T), the spread of the cancer to lymph nodes (N), and the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body (M, for metastasis).

Besides using the TNM labels, your doctor also will give your cancer a Gleason score. A Gleason score is a way to describe differences in prostate cancer cells. Prostate cancer cells that have a low Gleason score grow more slowly than cells that have a higher score.

Once the TNM and Gleason score information is collected, your doctor can tell what stage your cancer is in, what treatment is best for you, and what your outlook is for being cured.

Other Works Consulted

  • American Cancer Society (2006). Cancer Facts and Figures 2006, pp. 1–56. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Available online:

Last Updated: June 27, 2008

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