Urinary symptoms and prostate cancer-the misconception that may be preventing earlier presentation and better survival outcomes
AffiliationDepartment of Urology, Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, Cambridge, UK
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AbstractBackground: Prostate cancer is an epidemic of the modern age, and despite efforts to improve awareness, it remains the case that mortality has hardly altered over the decades, driven largely by late presentation. There is a strong public perception that male urinary symptoms is one of the key indicators of prostate cancer, and this continues to be part of messaging from national guidelines and media health campaigns. This narrative, however, is not based on evidence and may be seriously hampering efforts to encourage early presentation. Discussion: Anatomically, prostate cancer most often arises in the peripheral zone, while urinary symptoms result from compression of the urethra by prostatic enlargement more centrally. Biopsy studies show that mean prostate volume is actually lower in men found to have (early) prostate cancer compared to those with benign biopsies. This inverse relationship between prostate size and the probability of cancer is so strong that PSA density (PSA corrected for prostate volume) is known to be significantly more accurate in predicting a positive biopsy than PSA alone. Thus, this disconnect between scientific evidence and the current perception is very striking. There is also evidence that using symptoms for investigating possible cancer may lead to higher proportions of men presenting with locally advanced or metastatic disease compared to PSA testing or screening programmes. Concerns about overwhelming health care services if men are encouraged to get tested without symptoms may also be overstated, with recent newer approaches to reduce over-investigation and treatment. In this article, we explore the link between urinary symptoms and prostate cancer and propose that public and professional messaging needs to change. Conclusion: If rates of earlier diagnosis are to improve, we call for strong clear messaging that prostate cancer is a silent disease especially in the curable stages and men should come forward for testing regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. This should be done in parallel with other ongoing efforts to raise awareness including targeting men at highest risk due to racial ancestry or family history. While the current resurgence in interest and debate about prostate cancer screening is timely, change of this message by guideline bodies, charities and the media can be a first simple step to improving earlier presentation and hence cures rates.
CitationGnanapragasam VJ, Greenberg D, Burnet N. Urinary symptoms and prostate cancer-the misconception that may be preventing earlier presentation and better survival outcomes. BMC medicine. 2022 Aug 4;20(1):264. PubMed PMID: 35922801. Pubmed Central PMCID: PMC9351095. Epub 2022/08/04. eng.
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