Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Stages

Advanced technology for the right treatment plan

A serious middle-aged man represents the importance of learning more about a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Advanced technology for the right treatment plan

Scripps specialists use several types of tests for diagnosing prostate cancer. Diagnostic testing also can help cancer physicians stage the disease and develop a prostate cancer prognosis and treatment plan.

How is prostate cancer detected and diagnosed?

How is prostate cancer detected and diagnosed?

If a prostate cancer screening exam indicates that you may have the disease, or you have symptoms of prostate cancer, your physician will order further tests to better understand your condition. A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis, and imaging tests can determine tumor size and if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.


Depending on the results, you may be referred to a Scripps oncologist or other cancer doctor for further diagnosis and staging to determine how far the cancer has spread and the most appropriate prostate cancer treatment plan.

Imaging and diagnostic testing

Imaging and diagnostic testing

Scripps offers the most advanced testing for prostate cancer diagnosis.

Prostate cancer stages

Prostate cancer stages

The stages of prostate cancer describe how far cancer may have spread inside the prostate or to other parts of the body. Diagnostic imaging and testing help physicians determine the stage of cancer, as well as how best to plan prostate cancer treatment. In some cases, the stage will be determined after the tumor is surgically removed and the surgeon can see if cancer has spread. Generally, the lower the stage, the better the prostate cancer prognosis.


Prostate cancer staging is determined by:


  • The size of the tumor
  • Whether the cancer has spread beyond the prostate
  • Whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body


The two types of staging for prostate cancer include the clinical stage and pathologic stage.


Clinical stage

This is your doctor’s estimate of how far prostate cancer has advanced. It’s based on any tests you have had, including any biopsies and imaging exams. 


Pathologic stage

If you have surgery for prostate cancer, your doctor will be able to determine your pathologic stage. This stage is based on your test results as well as any findings from your surgery. Because surgery allows your doctor to see the extent of the cancer, pathologic staging is usually more accurate than clinical staging.

Understanding your diagnosis

No one wants to hear that they have prostate cancer. You may feel frightened, overwhelmed, anxious or sad. All of these feelings are perfectly normal. The more you learn about your diagnosis and next steps, the sooner you can begin to make informed decisions about your treatment.


Questions and considerations

Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor or health insurance provider regarding your prostate cancer diagnosis:


  • Should I get a second opinion?
  • How do I find a specialist?
  • What is my cancer treatment plan?
  • Will I have to miss work/school?
  • What are the side effects of prostate cancer treatment?
  • How successful is my treatment likely to be?
  • What costs will be covered by insurance?
  • Which costs will I be responsible for?


Your Scripps cancer care team will be with you every step of the way, ensuring that your care revolves around your medical, personal and practical needs. In most cases, you will work with your nurse navigator to coordinate your care, answer questions and provide support. For more information, visit our cancer patient resources section.