As with many other kinds of cancer, prostate cancer is also a life-threatening condition. At advanced stage, there is greater chance for it to kill the sufferer. However the stage of the disease is not the single parameter for the prognosis and outlook. Other factors such as PSA level and Gleason score can have an effect, too.
PSA stands for prostate specific antigen, a protein that can be made either by normal cells or by abnormal (cancerous) cells in the prostate. Though there is no exactly parameter to determine whether your PSA level is normal or abnormal. But some rough guides are available.
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In general, high PSA levels may signal that something goes awry with your prostate, such as cancer, infection, or benign (non-cancerous tumor). And in prostate cancer, higher levels of this protein mean that the cancer is more likely to progress aggressively and tends to spread.
In other words, high PSA levels are commonly considered bad for the prognosis and outcome for cancer of prostate. Although this parameter is not absolute!
Another factor that has an effect is the grade of the cancer. The cells of cancer are analyzed under a special microscope. The grade is determined by how a like they are to healthy /normal cells.
If cancer cells look so different to normal cells, they are high grade. On the other hand, if they look very like healthy /normal cells, they are low grade.
One of common methods to observe the grade of cancer cells is with a method called Gleason score. This score ranges from 1 to 5. The scores of 1 and 2 are consider normal cells, scores 3 to 5 are cancerous cells (with score 5 is the worst, most abnormal).
In general, cancer with low Gleason score is more likely to grow and progress slowly, less likely to spread. On the other hand, high score means the cancer tends to grow rapidly and more likely to spread.
An interesting fact, many patients are recommended to choose watchful-waiting (active monitoring) to cope with prostate cancer. This option doesn’t mean that you can forget and ignore the disease.
The treatment may not immediately necessary, but the progression of the cancer is continuously monitored. But if there is a high risk that the cancer might start to spread, the treatment is now immediately necessary.
The reason of why ‘watchful-waiting’ is suggested because many cases of prostate cancer are more likely to grow and develop slowly. Furthermore, taking treatments for cancer often carry risk of serious side effects and other discomforts.
In men older than 50, watchful-waiting option is often recommended because the cancer is less likely to cause serious effect in the rest of patient’s life. In fact, many elderly men got their death not from their prostate cancer, but due to other health conditions.
In general, the stage of the disease is classified based on whether or not the cancer has spread. There are four major stages, I, II, III, and IV – see more these stages in this section!
If the cancer has not spread yet (localized disease), it is relatively easier to treat. This phase is categorized into stage I and II.
But when it has spread to regional areas (nearby tissues), it starts to become more difficult to treat. This phase include stage III and IV.
The worst outcome if the cancer has spread to distinct organs. At advanced stage, prostate cancer often affects bones. This phase includes the rest of stage IV.
So in general, the more advanced stage, the worse outcome and prognosis of the disease. For in-depth information about the chance for prostate cancer to kill or cause death, see these survival rates!