Diagnosis and Classification of Prostate Cancer
In most cases prostate cancer is asymptomatic, which means that there are no clear symptoms to indicate it. Most prostate cancers are detected after a test to check the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. If the level of PSA in the blood is high, the doctor will recommend more tests to see what causes the increase. A PSA test alone can never be used to diagnose prostate cancer.
The most common tools to check the condition of your prostate are a PSA test and a digital rectal examination (DRE). Your doctor could recommend these tests if you have urinary symptoms. These may include the need to urinate more often than usual, a sudden need to urinate that is difficult to postpone, or involuntary loss or dribbling of urine into the underwear. Often these symptoms point to other conditions, most commonly benign prostatic enlargement (BPE). They could also be signs of advanced prostate cancer. This is why you may need to take several tests before the doctor can make a diagnosis.
Based on the results of these tests your doctor may recommend a prostate biopsy. Keep in mind that a prostate biopsy is the only test that can confirm a prostate cancer diagnosis.
Because prostate cancer is generally asymptomatic, your doctor might recommend regular PSA testing. Whether or not your doctor will suggest this depends on many factors, including the policy of your doctor or hospital, or the national health policies of your country. The most important factors are always your age and your family history.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the urologist needs to define the tumour stage. By analysing tumour tissue, received either during surgery or biopsy, the pathologist determines the characteristics of the tumour and whether or not it is an aggressive form. Together, the stage and aggressiveness of the tumour form the classification.
Classification of the tumour in the prostate is used to estimate your individual prognosis. Based on this individual prognosis your doctor will discuss the best treatment pathway for you.
This section offers general information which is not specified to your individual needs. Keep in mind that situations can vary in different countries.