Inadequate Evidence of Benefit Associated with Screening for Prostate Cancer With Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) or Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
The evidence is insufficient to determine whether screening for prostate cancer with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or digital rectal exam (DRE) reduces mortality from prostate cancer. Screening tests are able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage, but it is not clear whether this earlier detection and consequent earlier treatment leads to any change in the natural history and outcome of the disease. Observational evidence shows a trend toward lower mortality for prostate cancer in some countries, but the relationship between these trends and intensity of screening is not clear, and associations with screening patterns are inconsistent. The observed trends may be due to screening, or to other factors such as improved treatment. Results from two randomized trials showed no effect on mortality through 7 years but are inconsistent beyond 7 to 10 years.
Magnitude of Effect: Uncertain.
Study Design: Evidence obtained from observational and descriptive studies (e.g., international patterns studies, time series).
Internal Validity: Fair.
External Validity: Poor.
Based on solid evidence, screening with PSA and/or DRE results in overdiagnosis of prostate cancers, and detection of some prostate cancers that would never have caused significant clinical problems. Thus, screening leads to some degree of overtreatment. Based on solid evidence, current prostate cancer treatments, including radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy, result in permanent side effects in many men. The most common of these side effects are erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.[1-4] Screening also leads to false-positive findings, with sequelae involving unnecessary diagnostic procedures. In addition, the screening process itself can lead to adverse psychological effects in men who have a prostate biopsy but do not have identified prostate cancer. Prostatic biopsies are associated with complications, including fever, pain, hematospermia/hematuria, positive urine cultures, and rarely sepsis.
Magnitude of Effect: 20% to 70% of men who had no problems before radical prostatectomy or external-beam radiation therapy will have reduced sexual function and/or urinary problems.
Study Design: Evidence obtained from cohort or case-control studies.
Internal Validity: Good.
External Validity: Good.
Moyer VA; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Screening for prostate cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med 157 (2): 120-34, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
Chou R, Croswell JM, Dana T, et al.: Screening for prostate cancer: a review of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med 155 (11): 762-71, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
Resnick MJ, Koyama T, Fan KH, et al.: Long-term functional outcomes after treatment for localized prostate cancer. N Engl J Med 368 (5): 436-45, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
Johansson E, Steineck G, Holmberg L, et al.: Long-term quality-of-life outcomes after radical prostatectomy or watchful waiting: the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group-4 randomised trial. Lancet Oncol 12 (9): 891-9, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
Fowler FJ Jr, Barry MJ, Walker-Corkery B, et al.: The impact of a suspicious prostate biopsy on patients' psychological, socio-behavioral, and medical care outcomes. J Gen Intern Med 21 (7): 715-21, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
Loeb S, Vellekoop A, Ahmed HU, et al.: Systematic review of complications of prostate biopsy. Eur Urol 64 (6): 876-92, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
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