Initial staging is based on the results of PSA blood tests, biopsies, and imaging tests. This is also called clinical staging.
PSArefers to a protein made by the prostate measured by a lab test.
A prostate biopsy is done in your doctor's office. The results can indicate:
Using the results from these tests, your doctor can tell you your clinical stage. At times, this is enough information to make decisions about your treatment.
Surgical staging (pathological staging) is based on what your doctor finds if you have surgery to remove the prostate and perhaps some of the lymph nodes. Lab tests are done on the tissue that's removed.
This staging helps determine what other treatment you may need might. It also helps predict what to expect after treatment ends.
The higher the stage, the more advanced the cancer.
Stage I cancer. The cancer is found only in only one part of the prostate. Stage I is called localized prostate cancer. It cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam or seen with imaging tests. If the PSA is less than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or less, Stage I cancer is likely to grow slowly.
Stage II cancer. The cancer is more advanced than stage I. It has not spread beyond the prostate and is still called localized. The cells are less normal than cells in stage I, and may grow more rapidly. There are two types of stage II prostate cancer:
Stage III cancer. The cancer has spread outside the prostate into local tissue. It may have spread into the seminal vesicles. These are the glands that make semen. Stage III is called locally advanced prostate cancer.
Stage IV cancer. The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body. It could be in nearby lymph nodes or bones, most often of the pelvis or spine. Other organs such as bladder, liver, or lungs can be involved.
Staging along with the PSA value and Gleason score help you and your doctor decide on the best treatment, taking into account:
With stage I, II, or III prostate cancer, the main goal is to cure the cancer by treating it and keeping it from coming back. With stage IV, the goal is to improve symptoms and prolong life. In most cases, stage IV prostate cancer cannot be cured.
American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. PSA testing for the pretreatment staging and posttreatment management of prostate cancer: 2013 Revision of 2009 Best Practice Statement. Linthicum, MD: American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. 2013. Available at:
Loeb S, Eastham, JA. Diagnosis and staging of prostate cancer. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 111.
National Cancer Institute. Prostate cancer treatment - health professional version (PDQ): prostate cancer screening. Last modified March 4. 2016. Available at:
Last reviewed on: 4/28/2016
Reviewed by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.