What is a prostate cancer risk group?
Once there is a prostate cancer diagnosis, doctors need to know how aggressive the type of cancer is before they can develop a comprehensive treatment plan. One of the ways doctors determine the aggressiveness is by placing it within a Prostate Cancer Risk Group. Risk groups demonstrate the likelihood of the cancer metastasizing, and if so, how fast that may happen. Doctors use risk groups to determine which combination of different treatments may be best for each patient.
How do you determine these prostate cancer risk groups?
Three major factors contribute to Prostate Cancer Risk Group assigned to each patient.
- PSA Test: Prostate Specific Antigen testing is a blood test that measures the level of a specific antigen. If cancerous cells are present in the prostate, the cells tend to overproduce PSA. PSA tests are often used as a screening tool for prostate cancer and one of the first things a doctor typically runs when they suspect cancer may be present.
- Stage of Prostate Cancer: To determine a stage for prostate cancer, doctors must examine one or more test results. Stages provide a standard of measurement for how far along the cancer has progressed in the prostate gland itself in addition to whether it has metastasized anywhere else in the body. A lower-numbered stage of prostate cancer indicates that the cancer cells are confined to the prostate gland. Once the cancer has spread outside the prostate capsule into nearby tissue, organs, or other regions of the body, the cancer is classified in a higher stage.
- Gleason Scores: The Gleason score is used to determine how aggressive the cancer is. Using a biopsy to obtain tissue samples, a pathologist examines a small tissue sample under a microscope. The pathologist looks to identify the cell patterns within the tissue, which tell the pathologist how fast-growing the cancer is most likely to be and the likelihood of it metastasizing to other body parts. A higher Gleason score means the cancer poses a greater risk to the patient.
For doctors to identify the most appropriate treatments after a prostate cancer diagnosis, they must know what type of risk the tumor poses. Assigning a patient’s cancer to a risk group is one of the most effective ways of doing so.