What Factors Affect the Prognosis for Prostate Cancer?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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Several factors affect the prognosis for prostate cancer, including the stage of the cancer, how abnormal or aggressive the cancer is, and the overall health of the affected person. Through treatment, some men recover from prostate cancer while others do not. Recovery does not ensure that the disease will not recur, though. In addition, those who cannot be cured from prostate cancer can undergo hormone therapy to extend their lives.

The main factor that affects the prognosis for prostate cancer is the stage, or extent, of the cancer. If the cancer spreads beyond the prostate, it can be more difficult to treat. There are four stages of prostate cancer, each of which has certain characteristics. In general, stage I is when the cancer is located in the prostate only, stage II is when the cancer has advanced, but is still located only in the prostate, and stage III is when the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, perhaps even to the seminal vesicles. Stage IV is when the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.


The Gleason score, or the measure of how abnormal or aggressive the cancer is, is another factor that affects the prognosis for prostate cancer. In fact, the Gleason score is one element that a doctor takes into account while staging the disease. The Gleason score is the sum of two Gleason grades, grades on a scale of 1 to 5 that are assigned to cells depending on how abnormal they appear. A Gleason grade of 5 suggests a higher risk of recurrence.

There might be many cells with different Gleason grades, so the two grades used to calculate the Gleason score are the two most prevalent grades among the cells. As a Gleason grade is on a scale of 1 to 5, the Gleason score is on a scale of 2 to 10. A Gleason score between 2 and 4 represents low-grade, less-aggressive cancer; a score between 5 and 7 represents middle-grade cancer;, and a score between 8 and 10 represents high-grade, more-aggressive cancer. A high Gleason score indicates a higher probability that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate.

Overall health can also affect the prognosis for prostate cancer. This is because medical conditions can limit the type of treatments that an affected person can pursue. Although some men will not need treatment for prostate cancer, having a limited scope of treatment options can prove unfavorable for others.


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