Understanding the Gleason Grading System for Prostate Cancer

May 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

If you have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the doctor may want to know and evaluate the prognosis or your chance of survival. This is an important step in prostate cancer diagnosis and staging. The Gleason Grading system is applied to evaluate the likely prognosis and help in the prescription of the best treatments. The following are some important details that can help you understand this system of Prostate cancer staging.

For a start, Dr. Donald Gleason developed this system as a tool for staging prostate cancer in men. He is a pathologist that worked with the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Hospital in the 1960s. Since then the use of the Gleason Grading System has become an important diagnostic procedure in staging cancer that originates from the prostate gland. This gland is found in men and forms part of the reproductive system.

How the Gleason Grading System works

The procedure for staging prostate cancer (i.e. determining what stage or how aggressive the cancerous cells are) through Gleason Grading system is initiated by taking samples of prostate tissues through a method called biopsy. The tissues extracted from the body are prepared on microscopic slides to be observed under a microscope. A pathologist, a radiologist, or a urologist can carryout these functions.

Under the microscope, a grade is assigned to the primary tumor pattern (i.e. the prominent nature of the cancerous). The secondary tumor pattern is also graded. The grade assign to each pattern ranges from 1 – 5. The higher the number the more aggressive is the cancer. The Gleason Score is obtained when two Gleason grades are added. For instance, if the primary tumor pattern is 4 and the next tumor pattern is 3, the Gleason Score will be 4+3= 7. The ranges of the Gleason score are from 2 to 10. Also, the highest numbers of the Gleason scores have the worst prognosis for prostate cancer.

The first number is assigned to the primary tumor pattern, while the second number is assigned to the next pattern. However, it must be noted that the Gleason score that has a primary tumor pattern of 3 and a secondary tumor pattern of 4 is less severe than when the numbers are reversed for each pattern. Hence, 3+4=7 is less aggressive than a 4+3=7 Gleason Score. It is very important to understand this!

Final note on the Gleason Grading System

So, the Gleason score is used to stage prostate cancer. Fewer score means less aggressiveness of the cancer, and vice versa. The primary tumor patterns are those that cover more than 50% of the total patterns of the tissues. The secondary or next tumor pattern covers less than 50% of the total tissue patterns.

Conclusively, it is important you understand the Gleason Grade (Gleason Pattern) and the Gleason Score (Gleason Sum) so you know if your prostate cancer has the best or worst prognosis. I hope this article has been useful to you in some way. Talk to your urologist or Pathologist to get further explanations.

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