After a prostate cancer diagnosis, additional tests may be done to find out if and where cancer cells have spread. The process is called staging, and it's important because it will dictate treatment.

Staging is done by using the results of diagnostic tests, such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, and the Gleason score (the higher this score, the higher the likelihood of cancer spreading quickly). Your provider may also use:

  • Bone scan. A small amount of radioactive material is injected and collects in the bones, where it's picked up by a scanner. This will show whether there are rapidly dividing cells, which can indicate cancer.
  • MRI. Images are produced via magnet, radio waves and computer.
  • CT scan. Detailed pictures of the body are made by using computer-linked X-rays. Sometimes dye is used.

There are four stages of prostate cancer:

  • Stage I indicates the cancer was found in the prostate only.
  • Stage II means the cancer has progressed but is still contained within the prostate. (This stage is divided into stages IIA and IIB.)
  • Stage III is designated to cancers that have spread beyond the outer layer of the prostate and maybe to the glands that make semen.
  • Stage IV means the cancer has spread to nearby tissue or organs, or areas far away from the prostate, including lymph nodes or bone.

Armed with this information, your provider can help determine the best treatment avenue for you.

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