Your Prostate Biopsy Report

Andrew Siegel MD   6/8/19

Today’s entry will enable you to make sense of the prostate biopsy report, which can be a source of confusion for patients.

Prostate Histology (the study of the microscopic structure of tissues) in 30-seconds   

The prostate gland is divided into anatomical subdivisions known as lobes. It is organized like a tree with a major trunk draining each lobe, each trunk served by many ducts which progressively branch out into smaller and smaller ducts. At the end of each duct is an acinus (Latin, meaning berry), analogous to a leaf at the end of a tree branch. Each acinus is lined by cells that secrete prostate fluid, a nutrient vehicle for sperm that is an important component of semen. Each acinus is surrounded by a basement membrane that is a barrier layer that separates the secretory cells from surrounding structures.

ducts and acini from AUA

Microscopic view of healthy prostate ducts and acini (plural of acinus); image from


Pathologists are the doctors that study biopsies under the microscope and make the diagnosis of cancer.  By staining tiny fragments of tissue cut in slices thinner than a hair, elements of the cell are highlighted that would not normally be apparent, identifying cancer.

What are the possible outcomes of the prostate biopsy?

There are four possibilities:

  • Benign prostate tissue
  • HGPIN (High Grade Prostate Intraepithelial Neoplasia)
  • ASAP (Atypical Small Acinar Proliferation)
  • Prostate Cancer

What is benign prostate tissue?

This is a biopsy report indicative of healthy prostate tissue, with no evidence of cancer or pre-cancer.  This is the kind of report that urologists are delighted to convey to patients.

What is HGPIN?

HGPIN is an acronym for “High Grade Prostate Intraepithelial Neoplasia.” HGPIN occurs in 0.6 – 24% of biopsies. It is a microscopic abnormality marked by an abnormal appearance and proliferation of cells within ducts and acini, but the abnormal cells do not extend beyond the basement membrane to the surrounding parts of the prostate (as occurs with prostate cancer). HGPIN is considered a pre-malignant precursor lesion to prostate cancer.

Current recommendations for men who are found to have one site of HGPIN (uni-focal HGPIN) are to follow-up as one would follow for a benign biopsy, with annual digital rectal exam and PSA.  However, if there are multiple biopsies indicating HGPIN (multifocal HGPIN), a more vigilant follow-up may be necessary, particularly if the PSA is elevated, accelerated or if there is ASAP (see below) found adjacent to the HGPIN. Repeat biopsy is a consideration, with sampling of identified HGPIN areas and adjacent sites. The more cores containing HGPIN on an initial prostate biopsy, the greater the likelihood of cancer on subsequent biopsies. The overall risk for prostate cancer following the diagnosis of multifocal HGPIN is about 25%.

What is ASAP?

ASAP is an acronym for “Atypical Small Acinar Proliferation.” ASAP occurs in 5 – 20% of biopsies. It is a microscopic abnormality marked by a collection of prostate acini that are suspicious but not diagnostic for prostate cancer, falling below the diagnostic “threshold.” The risk for cancer following the diagnosis of ASAP on re-biopsy is 40-50%. It is recommended that men with ASAP should undergo re-biopsy within 3 to 6 months, with sampling of identified areas and adjacent sites.

What is cancer?

All cancers begin with a cell that goes rogue during its replication—a cell gone wild—reproducing and proliferating endlessly and creating a mass of identical cells. This process is often caused by a single mutation.  Cancer is defined as the uncontrolled and disorganized growth of abnormal cells, as opposed to the controlled and organized means of replacing old cells after they become non-functional. Whereas normal cells grow, divide and die in an orderly fashion, cancer cells continue to grow, divide and form new abnormal cells.

Normal cells become cancer cells (malignant cells) when permanent such mutations in the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence of a gene transform them into a growing and destructive version of their former selves. These abnormal cells can then divide and proliferate aberrantly and without control. Although damaged DNA can be inherited, it is much more common for DNA damage to occur by exposure to environmental toxins or from random cellular events.  Under normal circumstances, the body repairs damaged DNA, but with cancer cells the damaged DNA is unable to be repaired.

As cancer cells grow they form a mass of cells (1 cubic centimeter of cancer consists of about 100 million cells) and the properties of the mutated cells allow them to encroach upon, invade and damage neighboring tissues. They can also break off from their site of origin via blood and lymphatic vessels and travel to and invade remote organs including lymph glands, liver, bone and brain, a situation known as metastasis.

Prostate cancer is a microscopic abnormality marked by an abnormal appearance and proliferation of cells within prostate ducts and acini (plural of acinus) that have broken through the basement membrane barrier to involve the deeper tissues of the prostate. The appearance of prostate cancer cells and their architectural patterns of growth differ from normal cells in ways that enable the pathologist to recognize and diagnose the biopsy as cancer. The degree to which these tissues demonstrate malignancy allows the pathologist to assign a grade to the cancerous tissue. The higher the grade, the more profound the malignant changes.

If the prostate biopsy demonstrates prostate cancer, the pathologist will provide a detailed report indicating the following:

  • Number of cores showing cancer
  • Percent of cancer involvement in each core
  • Location of the cores with cancer
  • Gleason score (the pathologist’s numerical quantification of aggressiveness)
  • Biopsy map

Most prostate cancers are “adenocarcinomas” (adeno- “pertaining to a gland” and carcinoma– “a cancer that develops in epithelial cells”) — a type of malignancy that originates from glandular cells. On occasion, a prostate adenocarcinoma is found to be an “intra-ductal carcinoma,” a proliferation of malignant prostate cells that fill and distend the inside space of prostatic ducts and acini, with the cells around the basement membrane largely preserved. Intra-ductal prostate cancer is often invasive, high grade, and typically has large tumor volumes.

Rarely, a prostate cancer is found to be a “small cell carcinoma,” a type of malignancy that originates from neuro-endocrine cells. This high grade and aggressive cancer accounts for only about 1% of prostate cancers and is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage, tends to progress rapidly and has a poor prognosis with an average survival of less than one year.

Coming next week: The Gleason grading system for prostate cancer.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

The content of this entry is excerpted from his new book, PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

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Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

Prostate Cancer 20/20 on Apple iBooks

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health





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2 Responses to “Your Prostate Biopsy Report”

  1. Maintaining Good Health (& Reducing Risk For Prostate Cancer) | Our Greatest Wealth Is Health Says:

    […] uncommonly, pre-cancer on prostate biopsy—high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) and/or atypical small acinar […]

  2. Prostate Cancer With a Normal PSA: A Digital Rectal Exam Can Be Life-Saving | Our Greatest Wealth Is Health Says:

    […] For more info: Understanding prostate biopsy reports […]

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