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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(7):1721-1722

Case Study

DS, a 55-year-old African-American man, comes into your office for a physical examination. While talking about his family history, you learn that his father had prostate cancer. DS asks if he should be tested for prostate cancer. Before counseling him, you review the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations on prostate cancer screening.

Case Study Questions

1. Which one of the following statements about prostate cancer is correct?

  • A. Prostate cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death among men.

  • B. The risk of prostate cancer increases beginning at age 50.

  • C. Prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates are the same in African-American men and white men.

  • D. Hispanic men have slightly higher mortality rates from prostate cancer than white men do.

  • E. Many more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer than die of it.

2. Which one of the following statements regarding the USPSTF routine prostate cancer screening recommendations is correct?

  • A. The USPSTF recommends routine prostate cancer screening for men age 40 and older.

  • B. The USPSTF does not recommend for or against routine prostate cancer screening.

  • C. The USPSTF recommends routine prostate cancer screening for men age 50 and older.

  • D. The USPSTF recommends routine prostate cancer screening for men age 40 and older who are at high risk for prostate cancer.

  • E. The USPSTF recommends routine prostate cancer screening for men age 50 and older who are at high risk for prostate cancer.

3. In counseling DS, you discuss the effectiveness of screening for prostate cancer using digital rectal examination (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. Which of the following statements about screening is/are correct?

  • A. Screening can effectively detect prostate cancer in its early pathologic stages.

  • B. Detection of prostate cancer by screening leads to improved outcomes.

  • C. All cancers detected by screening will be clinically significant over a patient's lifetime.

  • D. The yield of screening in terms of cancers detected decreases with repeated annual testing.

Answers

1. The correct answer is E. Many more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer than die of it. Men in the United States have a 15 percent lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer but only a 3 percent lifetime risk of dying of the disease. However, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among U.S. men. In 2002, an estimated 30,200 men died of prostate cancer. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases beginning at age 40, and the burden of prostate cancer varies among different racial and ethnic groups. African-American men have about a 60 percent higher incidence and a twofold higher mortality rate from prostate cancer compared with white men. Non-white Hispanics have a 35 percent lower mortality rate than white men, and Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have a 40 percent lower rate.

2. The correct answer is B. The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routine prostate cancer screening. The balance of potential benefits (i.e., the reduction of prostate cancer morbidity and mortality) and harms (e.g., false-positive results, unnecessary biopsies, possible complications) of early treatment remains uncertain. Despite the absence of firm evidence, some clinicians may opt to perform prostate cancer screening for other reasons. If early detection is shown to improve health outcomes, screening will most likely benefit average-risk men aged 50 to 70 and men older than 45 who are at increased risk (e.g., men with a first-degree relative with prostate cancer, African-American men). Older men and men with significant medical problems who have a future life expectancy of fewer than 10 years are unlikely to benefit from screening. Given the uncertainties and controversy surrounding prostate cancer screening, clinicians should not order the PSA test without first discussing the potential benefits and harms of screening with their patients.

3. The correct answers are A and D. Screening with DRE and PSA testing can effectively detect prostate cancer in its early pathologic stages, but the extent to which earlier detection leads to improved outcomes is uncertain. Screening with DRE and PSA testing may detect cancers that appear clinically significant based on size and grade but which would not have progressed to clinical symptoms during a patient's lifetime. The yield of screening in terms of cancers detected declines rapidly with repeated annual testing.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

A collection of Putting Prevention Into Practice published in AFP is available at https://www.aafp.org/afp/ppip.

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