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Prostate Cancer Staging

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Prostate cancer staging is when physicians categorize the risk of cancer, which spread beyond the prostate, or, the probability of being cured with local therapies such as surgery or radiation.

The cancer’s stage (extent) is one of the most crucial factors in choosing treatment options and calculating a patient’s outlook. The biopsy confirms if an individual has cancer. To find out how far the cancer has spread within the prostate, to nearby tissues or to other parts of the body, more tests may be necessary.

The digital rectal exam (DRE) results, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level and Gleason score will be used to figure out how likely your cancer has spread outside of the prostate. This gathered information is used to decide which other tests, if any, need to be done before deciding on a treatment. A normal DRE result, a low PSA and a low Gleason score means that the change the cancer has spread is so low. With these results, other tests may not be necessary.

An essential part of prostate cancer staging is the physical examination, especially the digital rectal exam (DRE). A DRE will provide the physician information of whether the can is only on one side of the prostate, present on both sides, or if it is likely to have spread beyond the prostate gland to nearby tissue. The DRE is always used together with the PSA blood test for the purpose of early detection of prostate cancer. An examine of other areas of the body is preformed by the physician to determine if the cancer has spread. Other symptoms such as urinary problems or bone pain are considered by the physician with the possibility that the cancer has spread to the bones.

Imaging Tests used for Prostate Cancer Staging

Some men with prostate cancer may not need to have imaging tests; however, some men do and the following tests are sometimes use.

Radionuclide bone scan

When prostate cancer spreads to other areas of the body, it’s often the bones first. If prostate cancer does spread to the bone, it is still called prostate cancer. A bone scan is an accurate procedure which can help show whether cancer has reached the bones.

A small amount of low-level radioactive material is injected into a vein by intravenously, or IV. Over a course of a couple of hours, the substance settles in damaged bone tissue throughout the entire skeleton. The radioactivity is attracted to the areas of bond damage, known as “hot spots” on the skeleton. The hot spots may reveal that metastatic cancer is present, but arthritis or other bone diseases can also cause the same pattern. To recognize the difference between these conditions, the cancer care team may use other imaging tests such as simple x-rays or CT or MRI scans for a better look at the areas that light up, or possibly, take biopsy samples of the bone.

The only uncomfortable part of the scanning procedure is the injection itself. Over the next few days, the radioactive material is passed out of the body in the urine. The amount of radioactivity used is very low, so there is no risk to the patient or others; however, consulting the physician to find out if special precautions are necessary after having the test should be considered.

Computed Tomography (CT)

A computed tomography is also known as a CAT scan. It is a special kind lf x-ray that gives detailed, cross-sectional images of the body. A standard x-ray takes one picture, a CT scanner takes many pictures of the part of the body being studied as it rotates around the patient. The computer combines the pictures into images of slices of the part of the patient’s body being studied;

The patient may be asked to drink one or two pints of “oral contrast” before the first set of pictures is taken. This helps outline the intestine so it looks different from any tumors. The patient may also receive an IV, intravenous, line where a different kind of contrast is injected. This procedure helps outline structures in the patient’s body. A full bladder is necessary, so the patient may be asked to drink a lot of liquids to fill the bladder. By doing this, the bowel is away from the area of the prostate glad.

A CT can help tell whether prostate cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes, and it also can help tell if the cancer is growing into other organs or structures in the pelvis.

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