Prostate cancer: to screen or not to screen?
Neal DE., Donovan JL.
The aim of screening is to identify cancers that are potentially curable; before a programme can be introduced, it must satisfy the requirement that it does more good than harm, particularly in terms of survival and quality of life. Prostate cancer is a common disease in older men and presents a significant burden to health services. Prostatic tumours range from small slow-growing lesions to aggressive tumours that metastasise rapidly, but because the natural history of prostate cancer is poorly understood, there is controversy about which screen-detected lesions will become clinically significant. Current methods of screening involve measurement of serum prostate specific antigen, followed by transrectal ultrasound scanning and biopsy, but these lack adequate specificity and sensitivity. There are three major treatment options for localised disease: radical prostatectomy, radical radiotherapy, and monitoring with treatment if required. There is no randomised controlled trial evidence to suggest a survival advantage of any of these treatments, and each has risks. There is intense speculation about future developments in diagnostic testing, molecular markers of progression, and early chemoprevention, but the central question that remains is whether radical treatments can improve survival and quality of life.