Prostate cancer detection at low prostate specific antigen

Fritz H. Schröder, Ingrid Van Der Cruijsen-Koeter, Harry J. De Koning, André N. Vis, Robert F. Hoedemaeker, Ries Kranse

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263 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: At low prostate specific antigen (PSA) the indication for prostate biopsy is usually an abnormal digital rectal examination. We evaluate the diagnostic value of PSA, digital rectal examination, transrectal ultrasonography and tumor characteristics at low PSA (0 to 4.0 ng./ml.). We confirm and add to recent evidence that digital rectal examination has a low predictive value and that many significant cancers at this PSA range may be missed. Materials and Methods: From 1994 to 1997 a total of 10,523 participants 54 to 74 years old were randomized to screening in the Rotterdam section of the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer. Of the participants 9,211 (87.5%) had PSA less than 4.0 ng./ml., and underwent digital rectal examination and transrectal ultrasonography. Expected rates of prostate cancer detection were calculated using logistic regression analysis. Radical prostatectomy was performed in about half of the 478 men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Tumors were characterized by pT category, Gleason score and cancer volume in 166 processed radical prostatectomy specimens. In 50 of these cases PSA was 0 to 4.0 ng./ml. Results: The positive predictive value of digital rectal examination and transrectal ultrasonography at PSA 0 to 4.0 ng./ml. was only 9.7%. Positive predictive value strongly depended on PSA. Sensitivity was calculated by using estimates of the prevalence of sextant biopsy detectable prostate cancers. Of 760 detectable cancers 478 (67%) were diagnosed irrespective of PSA in men screened with digital rectal examination, transrectal ultrasonography and PSA. Only 127 of 348 detectable prostate cancers (36.5%) were actually diagnosed in men with PSA 2 to 4 mg./ml. The importance of these missed cancers was evaluated with parameters of tumor aggressiveness within PSA ranges. Conclusions: Approximately half of the tumors missed with PSA 0 to 4 ng./ml. had aggressive characteristics (Gleason score 7 or greater, Gleason 4-5 components) and were organ confined. These tumors should be diagnosed and treated according to the present understanding of their natural history. More sensitive and selective screening strategies are needed. Presently a wrong 'window of opportunity' is used for early detection of prostate cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)806-812
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of urology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2000


  • Biopsy
  • Prostate
  • Prostate-specific antigen
  • Prostatic neoplasms

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