Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review

Clinically localised prostate cancer

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 23 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1102
  1. Timothy J Wilt, professor of medicine1,
  2. Ian M Thompson, professor and chair, department of urology2
  1. 1Minneapolis VA Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, 1 Veterans Drive (111-0), Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA
  2. 2University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, USA
  1. Correspondence to: T J Wilt Tim.wilt{at}

    Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in United Kingdom men.w1 In 2002 it was diagnosed in 32 000 men, and more than 10 000 deaths were attributed to it. Its incidence increased with the introduction of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test, and disease specific mortality has declined. This review provides evidence about risk factors, prevention, detection, natural course, and treatment, with a focus on clinically localised disease, to guide primary care doctors.

    Summary points

    • Prostate cancer is a common and potentially serious disease

    • Risk factors include increasing age, family history of prostate cancer, and black race. There are few established prevention strategies

    • Early detection and treatment may prevent future cancer-related illness, extend life, and provide peace of mind

    • However, prostate cancer testing, by digital rectal examination and prostate specific antigen testing, can have false positive and false negative results and detects many cancers that would never cause symptoms.

    • Lower urinary symptoms such as frequency, hesitancy, night time urination, and slow stream do not increase prostate cancer risk but are associated with higher PSA values

    • The probability that further evaluation with a prostate biopsy will be required as a result of testing is relatively high. Biopsy can cause adverse effects including pain, bleeding, and urinary infection

    • Treatment options include observation, surgery, radiation, and early hormonal deprivation. Aggressive treatment is needed to realise any benefit from discovery of a tumour, but such treatment may not be necessary or effective

    • Treatment is associated with a small risk of death and a higher risk of side effects, particularly regarding sexual, urinary, and bowel function

    • Men with a life expectancy of <10-15 years (due to advanced age or a serious coexisting condition) are unlikely to benefit from routine testing

    Data sources and selection criteria

    • We searched Medline and the Cochrane Library during August 2006 for randomised trials, systematic reviews, …

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