Prostate Cancer Stages and Symptoms
There are plenty of illnesses and ailments that can have severe consequences and symptoms, however not many hold the weight that cancer does. There are lots of different types of cancer, but today we are going to talk about the different types of prostate cancer symptoms.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer develops on the prostate. According to Mayo Clinic, the prostate is, “...a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.”
For men, prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It is usually a slow-growing cancer initially contained in the prostate. Some types of prostate cancer are slower to grow. Some of these slower types require minimal or no treatment at all. However, there are some types of prostate cancer that are more aggressive and have a higher potential of spreading to areas beyond the prostate where it can cause more damage.
The earlier the prostate cancer is identified, the better. When it is caught earlier, sometimes you are able to avoid more drastic forms of treatment that would have been necessary if it had been caught later. Be sure to talk with your doctor about when you should start regular screening for prostate cancer.
Similar to other forms of cancer, during the early stages of prostate cancer you may not experience any signs or symptoms. According to Mayo Clinic, as the cancer advances, you may start to experience symptoms such as:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in semen
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
As we discussed earlier, it is important to discuss prostate exams with your doctor and whether they feel you need them yet. However, if you start to experience any of the listed symptoms or others that may be bothering you, it may be best to pay your doctor a visit. Like other cancers, the status of the cancer or stage it is in often determines the symptoms one may experience.
Stages of Prostate Cancer
Like other cancers, there are four stages of prostate cancer.
Stage 1 of prostate cancer is when it develops in your prostate, but it has not yet spread to other areas. This usually cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam and it often cannot be seen in imaging tests yet either.
During the first stage, the tumor only makes up a maximum of half of a single side of the prostate. At this stage, its Gleason score is six or less and the PSA level is below 10. The higher your Gleason score, the more aggressive the cancer is.
By Stage 2A of prostate cancer, the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. The tumor may or may not be able to be identified during tests. At this stage the tumor may be touching more than one single lobe in the prostate, however, it has yet to spread to both lobes. The Gleason score for stage 2A of prostate cancer is seven or below.
By Stage 2B, the tumor may be in one or both lobes of the prostate. The Gleason score for Stage 2B is seven, however, the PSA is below 20. By stage 2C, the cancer still has not spread beyond the prostate. The cancer cells at this stage are slightly more abnormal and aggressive than at stage 2B. The Gleason score at this stage is seven or eight, however, the PSA level is still below 20.
By stage 3A, the cancer still has not spread beyond the prostate. Doctors may or may not be able to detect the tumor through an exam or imaging test. The Gleason score is eight or below and the PSA is at least 20.
By stage 3B, the cancer has finally spread outside of the prostate. However, it has not reached the lymph nodes or any distant sites of the body yet. The Gleason score is still eight or less and the PSA can be at any level. At stage 3C, cancer may or may not have spread out of the prostate, however, the Gleason score is at a nine or 10. The PSA can be at any level.
By the time it reaches stage 4A, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes that are nearby, but it has not reached more distant areas of the body. By stage 4B, the cancer has spread to distant sites in the body from the prostate, such as other organs. The Gleason score and PSA can be at any level during both stage 4A and stage 4B.
The location, side and where it may spread influences what specific symptoms one may experience.
It is important to remember that the earlier the cancer is detected, the less difficult the treatment process will be. Be sure to speak to your doctor about when they feel you should start receiving regular prostate exams. This will help ensure that you catch the cancer as early as possible.