JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

The role of the digital rectal examination in subsequent screening visits in the European randomized study of screening for prostate cancer (ERSPC), Rotterdam

Claartje Gosselaar, Monique J Roobol, Stijn Roemeling, Fritz H Schröder
European Urology 2008, 54 (3): 581-8
18423977

BACKGROUND: The value of digital rectal examination (DRE) as a screening test for prostate cancer (PC) is controversial in the current prostate-specific antigen (PSA) era.

OBJECTIVES: To determine (1) the additional value of a suspicious DRE for the detection of PC in men with an elevated PSA level in subsequent screenings and (2) the tumour characteristics of PCs detected in men with a suspicious DRE.

DESIGN, SETTING, PARTICIPANTS: Within the screening study, from 1997-2006 men aged 55-75 years were invited for an every 4-yr PSA determination. A PSA level > or =3.0ng/ml prompted a DRE and a transrectal ultrasound (TRUS)-guided, lateralized sextant biopsy. Throughout the three screenings of the ERSPC, Rotterdam, 5040 biopsy sessions were evaluated.

MEASUREMENTS: We determined the positive predictive values (PPVs) of a suspicious DRE and normal DRE, which entailed, respectively, the proportion of PCs detected in men with a suspicious DRE or normal DRE divided by, respectively, all biopsied men with a suspicious DRE or normal DRE.

RESULTS AND LIMITATIONS: At initial screening, the PPV of a suspicious DRE, in conjunction with an elevated PSA level, to detect PC was 48.6% compared to 22.4% for men with a normal DRE. Both PPVs decreased in consecutive screens: respectively, 29.9% versus 17.1% (screen 2) and 21.2% versus 18.2% (screen 3). Respectively, 71.0% (p<0.001), 68.8% (p<0.001), and 85.7% (p=0.002) of all PCs with a Gleason score >7 were detected in men with a suspicious DRE at screens 1, 2, and 3. A limitation is that only biopsied men were evaluated.

CONCLUSIONS: At initial and subsequent screenings, the chance of having cancer at biopsy was higher in men with a suspicious DRE compared to men with a normal DRE (to a lesser extent in subsequent screenings), and the combination of a PSA level > or =3.0ng/ml with a suspicious DRE resulted in detecting significantly more PCs with Gleason score >7. DRE may be useful in more selective screening procedures to decrease unnecessary biopsies and overdiagnosis.

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