Prostate Cancer Spreading

Methods used to measure the spread of prostate cancer in the body

There are many methods that can be used to determine the spread of prostate cancer. If you have been diagnose with the condition following a prostate biopsy, then it is common to perform both physical and digital imaging examinations to ascertain the spread of the cancer.

Physical examinations for prostate cancer

The most common form of physical examination that is performed when determining the spread of prostate cancer is the digital rectal examination. Other physical tests may be performed to test for spread in areas away from the prostate.

Using Imaging methods to look at your internal structures

Imaging methods enable a doctor to take a look at your internal organs, some of the most often used methods include radio nuclide bone scans, prostascint scans, CAT scans (Computed Tomography), MRI, MRS, x-rays, ultrasound and IVP.

Common Imaging methods used to determine the spread of prostate cancer

Radio nuclide bone scans

As prostate cancer advances it may enter the bones, therefore both as a precaution and to determine if cancer has spread to the bones it is common for a doctor to ask you to undergo a radio nuclide bone scan. This procedure is usually only given to people at a fairly advanced stage of prostate cancer (Gleason score of 7, or T3 TNM score. In this procedure radioactive tracer material, which is readily taken up by cancer metastases in the bone, can be detected by scanning. As the radioactive material also attaches itself to bone defects, such as those caused by broken bones radio nuclide bone scans are usually performed in conjunction with CAT scans, X-rays or similar; this helps to lower the incidence of false positives.

CAT Scans

Cat scans make use of 2 dimensional x-rays and computer technology to give a picture of the inside of the body. Two common methods are used when looking at the spread of prostate cancer in the body: A CT urogram to look at the kidneys and urinary system, and a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis, to determine cancer presence in those areas. CAT scans are usually only used for people with later stage prostate cancers.

MRI - Magnetic resonance imaging

This technique makes use of magnets and radio waves to make a map of the inside of the body. This method creates a higher quality image than that of either CAT scans or of TRUS. The doctor is able to determine any spread of cancer both within and outside the prostate with great accuracy.


The prostascint technique makes use of radioactively labelled antibodies that bind to prostate cancer cells. Scanning for radioactivity enables the detection of cancer cells throughout the body, therefore allowing the spread to be measured.


This technique makes use of sound waves to form an internal image, one of the advantages of this technique is that it does not use radiation. Common areas assayed by ultrasound include abdominal and transrectal (TRUS) methods.

It is hoped that this section has helped you to understand some of the techniques used to determine the spread of prostate cancer in the body. If you are diagnosed early through a PSA or DRE then it is likely that your cancer is at an early stage and it is unlikely that the doctor will order any of these tests as the cancer is unlikely to have spread. As always if you have any specific questions on any of these cases do not be shy on asking your own doctor for advice.

© Prostate Cancer Guide inc. 2006 - 2015