Consequences of not screening for prostate cancer prove dire



SAN DIEGO – The mean survival of men who initially presented with a prostate-specific antigen score of 100 ng/mL or greater was just 18 months, results from a single-center study showed.

In an effort to provide insight into the consequences of not screening for prostate cancer, researchers at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, Calif., – a county hospital affiliated with the Stanford (Calif.) University that serves a large underinsured population – evaluated the impact of initial prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels of 100 ng/mL or greater on patient morbidity and mortality. "What we hypothesized is that they would do pretty well because with newer forms of treatment, and once they get into our system, we have comprehensive care that we can provide to them," Dr. Jeffrey H. Reese, chief of the division of urology at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said during a press briefing at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association. However, "what we found is that they did not do well at all."

Dr. Jeffrey Reese

Dr. Reese reported results from 71 men with a mean age of 67 years who presented with a mean PSA score of 100 ng/mL or greater between 1998 and 2008 – none of whom had received a prior prostate cancer screening at the medical center. The median PSA at presentation was 399 ng/mL, and the median survival was 18 months. "These patients did profoundly worse than what we would have expected," Dr. Reese said. Only 9.6% of the patients survived beyond 3 years.

About 80% of patients had chronic pain from their disease. Common comorbidities included hospitalization (64%), chronic catheterization (29%), spinal cord compression (19%), and compression fracture (17%).

"There are a variety of reasons why [these men] are not being screened," Dr. Reese said. "This is a population that either has no health insurance or minimal health insurance. Some were brought in by concerned family members. Some were immigrants. I think our public hospitals represent a snapshot of what prostate cancer was like before PSA screening. It was not uncommon to have these patients come in with widely metastatic disease. There would be consequences to not screening for PSA, if we were just to abandon it entirely."

He described death from prostate cancer as "a really bad way to die. It’s painful and prolonged. There’s a profound price to pay for this disease."

Study coauthor Dr. Winifred Adams, a urology fellow at the Stanford University, acknowledged that the relatively small sample of 71 patients was a limitation. "We wonder: Is this just a problem of metastatic disease, or is it more of a PSA issue of over 100? So we need to go back and look at all patients with metastatic disease versus those who have PSA over 100 and see if the outcome is the same," Dr. Adams said.

The researchers reported having no relevant financial conflicts to disclose.

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