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Further tests for prostate cancer

Men and women discussing prostate cancer

This page tells you about further tests you may have if you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. There is information about


A quick guide to what's on this page

Further tests for prostate cancer

If tests show that you have prostate cancer, you may need more tests to see if the cancer has spread to anywhere else in your body. If you do need more tests, you may have

  • A specialised scan to look for suspicious areas in the bones – a bone scan
  • X-rays of your chest and any abnormal areas seen on your bone scan
  • A CT scan or MRI scan to check the area around your prostate and the lymph nodes in your groin
  • An ultrasound scan to look at your bladder and kidneys

Waiting for results

It can take a week or so for your test results to come through. You usually go back to see the specialist to get them. Waiting for results is bound to be an anxious time for you. You may find that it helps to talk things over with a close friend or relative. If you would like to talk to someone outside your own friends and family, look in our coping with cancer section for information about counselling.


CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Diagnosing prostate cancer section.



Why you need more tests

If tests show that you have prostate cancer, you may need more tests to see if the cancer has spread to anywhere else in your body.


Bone Scan

Your doctor may ask you to have a bone scan, because the bone is one of the most common areas for prostate cancer to spread to. But you may not need a bone scan if your PSA reading is low and your prostate cancer cells look very like normal prostate cells. In this situation the prostate cancer is very unlikely to have spread to the bone.

Areas of repair to damaged bone show up on the bone scan as hot spots. They are a sign of active bone cells. Having hot spots does not necessarily mean you have cancer in that area. They may be due to old fractures or arthritis. Your doctor will look at the pattern of hot spots to see whether they are likely to be due to cancer cells in the bone or whether they could be caused by other conditions.

There is information about having a bone scan in the cancer tests section.



You may have a chest X-ray to check your general health, especially if you are going to have surgery.

You may have X-rays of any hot spots that have shown up on your bone scan. This is to try to see if the hot spots have been caused by cancer or by arthritis, old fractures or other bone conditions.


MRI scans and CT scans

MRI scans and CT scans can show whether the cancer has spread to the area around the prostate gland or to nearby lymph nodes. You will need these tests if you are going to have surgery to remove the prostate or radiotherapy to try to cure your prostate cancer. 

There is information about having an MRI scan and having a CT scan in our cancer tests section.


Abdominal ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound uses sound waves to build up a picture of the inside of the body. It is completely painless. You may have a scan of your tummy (abdomen) to look at your kidneys and see how well your bladder is emptying. 

We have information about having an ultrasound.


Waiting for results

You will be asked to go back to the hospital when your test results have come through. This is bound to take a little time, and may be up to a week. You may feel very anxious during this time. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience.

If you would like to talk to other people in a similar situation, you could look at our prostate cancer organisations to find organisations that offer help and support. To find out about counselling look in the counselling section. Your GP may also be able to put you in touch with a local counsellor.

You may have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

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Updated: 20 February 2014