How can a prostate biopsy show if I have cancer?

Once prostate cancer is suspected from the results of a digital rectal exam or prostate-specific antigen test, confirmation is fairly simple. A biopsy is usually done. It is the only way to know for sure if cancer is present. A tissue sample of the prostate is obtained through a biopsy so that a pathologist can look for cancer cells. Examination of the biopsied tissue under a microscope can show if any cells are cancerous. The test is definitive if positive but could produce a false negative result.

If a tumor is found, the Gleason grading system is used to estimate how aggressive it is. This grading system rates the biopsied cells on a scale of 1 to 5 according to how closely they resemble normal prostate cells. The lower the number, the more closely the cancer cells resemble normal prostate cells and the less likely the cancer is to be aggressive; the greater the number is, the more abnormal the cells appear and the more likely the cancer will be aggressive and spread to other parts of the body.

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