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Complaints of incomplete bladder emptying

Reviewed by Chad R. Tracy, MD

SPL/Science Source

A 61-year-old man presents with complaints of frequent urination and incomplete bladder emptying. He also has been feeling fatigued but cannot tell if this is because his symptoms are worse at night and he has not been sleeping well. Despite a family history of atrial fibrillation, he reports no significant medical history beyond appendicitis many years ago. The patient underwent a prostate cancer screening about 18 months ago, which was normal. During a recent office visit, digital rectal examination (DRE) was normal, but prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were elevated at 10.2 ng/mL. An MRI is performed as part of the workup.

What is the diagnosis?

Prostatic hyperplasia

Urethral stricture

Prostate cancer

Acute prostatitis

Many patients with nonmetastatic prostate cancer are asymptomatic at the time of diagnosis due to widespread routine screening. When localized symptoms do occur, they may include urinary frequency, decreased urine stream, urinary urgency, and hematuria. An increasing proportion of patients with localized disease are asymptomatic, however; such signs and symptoms may well be related to age-associated prostate enlargement or other conditions. Nevertheless, men over the age of 50 years who present with urinary symptoms should be screened for prostate cancer using DRE and PSA. Benign prostatic hyperplasia, for example, can manifest in urinary symptoms and even elevate PSA. Acute prostatitis, on the other hand, presents as a urinary tract infection.

Because this patient showed elevated PSA levels, albeit with normal DRE findings, needle biopsy of the prostate is indicated for tissue diagnosis, usually performed with transrectal ultrasound. A pathologic evaluation of the biopsy specimen will determine the patient's Gleason score. PSA density (amount of PSA per gram of prostate tissue) and PSA doubling time should be collected as well. As seen in the present case, MRI can be used to assess lesions concerning for prostate cancer prior to biopsy. Lesions are then assigned Prostate Imaging–Reporting and Data System (PI-RADS) scores depending on their location within the prostatic zones. Imaging is also useful in staging and active surveillance. Staging is based on the tumor, node, and metastasis (TNM), with clinically localized prostate cancers including any T, N0, M0, NX, or MX cases. The clinician should pursue genetic testing to determine the presence of high-risk germline mutations.

The NCCN Guidelines recommend that for clinically localized prostate cancer, approaches include watchful waiting, active surveillance, radical prostatectomy, and radiation therapy. For asymptomatic patients who are older and/or have other serious comorbidities, active surveillance is often suggested. Radical prostatectomy is typically reserved for patients with a life expectancy of 10 years or more. Pelvic lymph node dissection may be performed on the basis of probability of nodal metastasis. Radiotherapy is also potentially curative in localized prostate cancer and may be delivered via brachytherapy, proton radiation, or external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). EBRT techniques include intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and hypofractionated, image-guided stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).

Chad R. Tracy, MD, Professor; Director, Minimally Invasive Surgery, Department of Urology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa

Chad R. Tracy, MD, has disclosed the following relevant financial relationships:

Serve(d) as a consultant for: Cvico Medical Solutions

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