How Prostate Cancer is Diagnosed

At Providence Saint John’s Health Center, our urologic cancer surgeons diagnose and treat prostate cancer with the most advanced therapies available. We provide focused, personalized care with a team of specialists that will help you make informed decisions.

In order to reach a diagnosis for prostate cancer, we take a thorough medical history and conduct a physical examination to be as accurate as possible. We’ll ask questions, make note of any symptoms you may have experienced and include any other pertinent information.

The following tests may be used to diagnose prostate cancer or to find out if it has spread:

  • Digital rectal exam: Your urologic oncologist will determine if there are any bumps or hard areas on the prostate that might be cancer.
  • PSA blood test: The prostate-specific antigen blood test is one of the first tests done in men who have symptoms of prostate cancer. Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 have about a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer. If the PSA is above 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is more than 50 percent.
  • Biopsy: Your urologic oncologist inserts a thin needle to remove a sample of tissue from the prostate. A pathologist examines the tissue. If a tumor is found, the pathologist grades the cancer cells and gives them a Gleason score. These scores range from 2 to 10. A tumor with higher grade tends to grow faster and is more likely to spread.

Targeted MRI/Ultrasound Fusion Biopsy

Providence Saint John’s Health Center is proud to introduce a powerful new MR solution for analysis, planning and targeted biopsy of the prostate. This complete clinical MR solution for the prostate consists of DynaCAD for Prostate and the UroNav fusion biopsy system - a comprehensive solution which offers a cutting edge imaging option for many patients with elevated and/or rising PSA levels.

Targeted MR/ultrasound biopsy is poised to become the new standard in prostate care, and Providence Saint John’s Health Center is pleased to offer this powerful solution to our patients. UroNav fuses pre-biopsy MR images of the prostate with ultrasound-guided biopsy images in real time, for excellent delineation of the prostate and suspicious lesions.

The fusion of the MR and ultrasound images uses electromagnetic tracking, similar to your car’s GPS system; a tiny tracking sensor attached to the trans-rectal ultrasound probe generates a small, localized electromagnetic field that helps determine the location and orientation of the biopsy device. A sophisticated algorithm maintains the fusion of MR and ultrasound images, even when the patient moves.

Prostate Cancer Staging

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will determine the stage of the disease. Staging is a way of classifying cancer by how much of the disease is in your body and whether it has spread. This helps doctors plan the best way to treat the cancer.

Your urologic oncologist may order these tests to help determine the stage of your prostate cancer:

  • Bone scan: This test can help determine if cancer has spread from the prostate to the bones.
  • CT scan: An X-ray machine linked to a computer can show whether prostate cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
  • MRI: A machine with a magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures that can show whether prostate cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other areas.

These are the stages of prostate cancer:

  • Stage 1: The cancer is only in the prostate.
  • Stage 2: The tumor hasn’t spread beyond the prostate, but it is more advanced than Stage 1.
  • Stage 3: The tumor has spread beyond the prostate, but it hasn’t reached the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: The cancer may have spread to the bladder, rectum, lymph nodes, bones or other parts of the body.