In any type of cancer, early diagnosis is a great advantage. Cancer, after all, is best controlled if it is detected at its earliest stage. With cancer of the prostate, majority of early-stage cases show no symptoms at all. In rare situations when early symptoms prostate cancer does appear, a patient should discuss his options with his physician first and carefully weigh the pros and cons of getting tested at this stage.
Early symptoms prostate cancer should not be a cause for anxiety and neither should it be ignored. Symptoms might be there for reasons other than cancer and the best thing to do is to arm yourself with important information about the potential condition. Having a thorough discussion with your physician is, of course, essential.
Should the symptoms proved to be cancer, the first thing to do is to know its grade. Prostate cancers are usually graded using the Gleason system. The system assigns a grade of 1 to 5 based on the arrangement of the cancerous tissue. If the cancerous tissue looks very much like a normal tissue, a grade of 1 is assigned. If the tissue lacks normal features and the cells seemed to be spread haphazardly through the prostate, a grade of 5 is given. The middle numbers 2,3 and 4, are used to grade intermediate features.
In most cases, areas produce different grades. Pathologists assign a grade to two of the areas that make up most of the cancer and the two grades are added up to derive the Gleason score or the Gleason sum. The sum yielded can range from 2 to 10. The higher the Gleason sum, the more likely that the cancer will grow and spread fast.
Pathologists sometimes encounter cases when prostate cells do not look cancerous but still show abnormal characteristics. In such cases, the results are reported as suspicious and are categorized either as atypical or prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). PIN can be either low grade or high grade. Atypical results or high-grade PIN can mean that cancer is already present somewhere else in the prostate gland. In high-grade PIN results, cancer has a 30 to 50 percent chance of being found. Because of this, repeat biopsies are often recommended.
Aside from the cancer grade, the prostate specific antigen (PSA) level of the patient prior to the confirmation of the cancer is also important. The pre-diagnostic PSA is often used to evaluate how advance the cancer was before it was detected. In most cases, the higher the PSA level, the more aggressive the disease.
The Gleason score, PSA level results and even the assessment of early symptoms prostate cancer, are then summarized into nomogram charts. These charts are used to evaluate whether additional treatments are needed and also to assess the likelihood of a patient being cancer-free after the treatment.