Understanding your prostate cancer

Watch our animation about understanding your prostate cancer:

 

What do my test results mean?

Your doctor will look at your test results to find out if the cancer has spread (its stage) and how quickly it might be growing.

How far has my cancer spread?

The stage of your cancer tells you whether it has spread outside the prostate and how far it has spread. You might need scans to find out the stage of your cancer. You might have an MRI, CT or bone scan.

Depending on the results, your cancer may be treated as:

Is my cancer likely to spread?

Your doctor may talk to you about the risk of your cancer spreading outside the prostate or coming back after treatment.

Your prostate biopsy results will show how aggressive the cancer is – in other words, how likely it is to spread outside the prostate. You might hear this called your Gleason grade, Gleason score, or grade group. Read more.

To work out your risk, your doctor will look at your PSA level, your Gleason score and the T stage of your cancer. Your risk will affect which treatment options are suitable for you.

Low risk

Your cancer may be low risk if:

  • your PSA level is less than 10 ng/ml, and
  • your Gleason score is 6 or less (grade group 1), and
  • the stage of your cancer is T1 to T2a.

Medium risk

Your cancer may be medium risk if:

  • your PSA level is between 10 and 20 ng/ml, or
  • your Gleason score is 7 (grade group 2 or 3), or
  • the stage of your cancer is T2b.

High risk

Your cancer may be high risk if:

  • your PSA level is higher than 20 ng/ml, or
  • your Gleason score is 8, 9 or 10 (grade group 4 or 5), or
  • the stage of your cancer is T2c, T3 or T4.

What happens next?

The results should help you and your doctor decide which treatments might be suitable for you.

Ask your doctor or nurse to explain your test results if you don’t understand them. Or you could call our Specialist Nurses.

References

Updated: July 2019To be reviewed: July 2021

  • List of reviewers  

    • Manit Arya, Consultant Urological Surgeon, University College Hospital, London
    • Zoe Storton, Uro-oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
    • Alastair Thomson, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
    • Karen Wilkinson, Uro-oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, University College Hospital, London
    • Our Specialist Nurses
    • Our Volunteers.
  • List of references  

    • Mottet N, Van den Bergh RCN, Briers E, Bourke L, Cornford P, De Santis M, et al. EAU - ESTRO - ESUR - SIOG Guidelines on Prostate Cancer. European Association of Urology; 2018.
    • National Institute for Clinical Excellence. Prostate Cancer: diagnosis and treatment. Full guideline 175. 2014.