You are leaving Medscape Education
Cancel Continue
Log in to save activities Your saved activities will show here so that you can easily access them whenever you're ready. Log in here CME & Education Log in to keep track of your credits.



Detection, Diagnosis, and Prognosis of Prostate Cancer

  • Authors: Authors: H. Ballentine Carter, MD; Angelo DeMarzo, MD, PhD; Hans Lilja, MD, PhD
Start Activity

Target Audience and Goal Statement

This activity is intended for urologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other healthcare professionals who treat patients with prostate cancer.

The goal of this activity is to educate physicians regarding the latest research in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of prostate cancer.

Upon completion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the controversies surrounding prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurement in men at risk for prostate cancer.
  2. Identify emerging imaging strategies for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
  3. Detail the accepted approaches toward staging and grading prostate tumors.
  4. Evaluate emerging factors for risk stratification and outcomes prediction in patients with prostate cancer.


Medscape requires Authors to disclose any relevant financial relationship within the past 12 months with the manufacturer of any product that may relate to the subject matter of the educational activity, whether or not the activity is commercially supported.

Medscape asks Authors to identify, at first mention, investigational products regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration.


  • H. Ballentine Carter, MD

    Professor of Urology and Oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Director, Division of Adult Urology, Brady Urological Institute, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland


    Disclosure: H. Ballentine Carter, MD, has no significant financial interests or relationships to disclose. Dr. Carter may discuss investigational or unlabeled uses of commercial products in this activity.

  • Angelo DeMarzo, MD, PhD

    Associate Professor of Pathology, Oncology, and Urology; Director, Tissue Microarray Core Facility, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Maryland


    Disclosure: Angelo DeMarzo, MD, PhD, has no significant financial interests or relationships to disclose. Dr. DeMarzo may discuss investigational or unlabeled uses of commercial products in this activity.

  • Hans Lilja, MD, PhD

    Attending Research Clinical Chemist, Departments of Clinical Laboratories, Urology, and Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY


    Disclosure: Hans Lilja, MD, PhD, has disclosed that he has served as a data evaluator for Ferring Pharmaceuticals, as a consultant or advisor to GenSpera, Inc., and on the prostate cancer steering committee for Sanofi-Synthelabo, and is a patent holder for free PSA assay and hK2 assay. Dr. Lilja may discuss investigational or unlabeled uses of commercial products in this activity.

Accreditation Statements

    For Physicians

  • Medscape, LLC is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

    Medscape designates this educational activity for a maximum of 1.25 category 1 credit(s) toward the AMA Physician's Recognition Award. Each physician should claim only those credits that reflect the time he/she actually spent in the activity.

    Contact This Provider


For questions regarding the content of this activity, contact the accredited provider for this CME/CE activity noted above. For technical assistance, contact [email protected]

Instructions for Participation and Credit

There are no fees for participating in or receiving credit for this online educational activity. For information on applicability and acceptance of continuing education credit for this activity, please consult your professional licensing board.

This activity is designed to be completed within the time designated on the title page; physicians should claim only those credits that reflect the time actually spent in the activity. To successfully earn credit, participants must complete the activity online during the valid credit period that is noted on the title page.

Follow these steps to earn CME/CE credit:

  1. Read the target audience, learning objectives, and author disclosures.
  2. Study the educational content online or printed out.
  3. Online, choose the best answer to each test question. To receive a certificate, you must receive a passing score as designated at the top of the test. Medscape encourages you to complete the Activity Evaluation to provide feedback for future programming.
You may now view or print the certificate from your CME/CE Tracker. You may print the certificate but you cannot alter it. Credits will be tallied in your CME/CE Tracker and archived for 5 years; at any point within this time period you can print out the tally as well as the certificates by accessing "Edit Your Profile" at the top of your Medscape homepage.

The credit that you receive is based on your user profile.


Detection, Diagnosis, and Prognosis of Prostate Cancer


Establishing the Diagnosis: Biopsy and Transrectal Ultrasound

Prostate biopsy is currently the gold standard for diagnosing prostate cancer. While establishing the diagnosis by prostate biopsy is at times straightforward, there are several challenges remaining. Perhaps the greatest challenge results from the fact that prostate cancer is generally multifocal, and only a very tiny portion of the prostate is sampled. Since the lesions are not palpable and imaging modalities fail to localize the cancer in the majority of cases, the biopsy is directed in a "blinded fashion." Multiple techniques for biopsying tissue have been developed; the newer methods have an eye toward increasing the amount of tissue sampled to obtain a more complete picture of the disease burden. Further, the diagnosis can be quite difficult for the pathologist, given the small sample and the fact that there are many benign histologic lesions that can mimic cancer.[58-60]

Needle biopsy is the preferred method for diagnosis, and allows for better evaluation of the extent of the tumor compared with fine-needle aspiration.[58,60] Sextant biopsy, which takes 6 parallel core samples, was the traditional biopsy sampling technique, but is now considered to be inadequate.[61,62] Newer prostate biopsy procedures include the use of 2 consecutive sets of sextant biopsies and strategies that are more laterally directed than the sextant biopsy procedures and that take 8-32 core biopsy samples. Although the optimal number of biopsy samples remains unclear, and some have suggested that it should vary by age and prostate volume,[63] the overall strategy of increasing the number of biopsy samples has been shown to reduce errors on histopathologic grading and to improve cancer detection and risk assessment by up to 20% compared with traditional sampling techniques.[8,62] The use of some of the newer genetic and/or biomarkers that are specific for prostate cancer should help bring the accuracy of detection even higher.[64]

Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS), or conventional gray-scale ultrasound, in combination with needle biopsy is commonly used to diagnose prostate cancer when there is an abnormal DRE or elevated PSA level. It provides a high-resolution image of the prostate, enables more accurate needle placement and tissue sampling, and can aid in assessing the integrity of the prostate capsule and seminal vesicles.[8,61] Although it has good interobserver reliability in estimating prostate volume, it has an overall low sensitivity and its specificity for malignant vs benign disease varies widely, making its overall accuracy in detecting and diagnosing prostate cancer low (Table 4).[65]

Table 4. Sensitivity, Specificity, and Overall Accuracy of TRUS

Extent of Localized Disease Sensitivity (%) Specificity (%) Accuracy (%)
Extracapsular extension 23-86 46-94 56-90
Seminal vesicle involvement 22-75 88-100 77-82
Adapted from Purhoit RS, et al.[65]

To increase its accuracy and utility, researchers have investigated a number of alternatives to standard TRUS, including power Doppler imaging (PDI), color Doppler TRUS (CDUS), and 3-dimensional Doppler (3DD). At present, few data are available on the ability of either CDUS or 3DD to accurately stage localized cancer, and reports on their use compared with TRUS as detection tools have shown mixed results.[66-68] In one retrospective study, CDUS-guided biopsies showed a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 100% in detecting perineural invasion as an indicator of extracapsular spread. However, comparison with standard TRUS showed that CDUS did not independently predict pathologic stage of disease. PDI has demonstrated sensitivities 3-4 times greater than CDUS in detecting tumors,[69] but its positive predictive value is similar to that of conventional gray-scale TRUS.[70] The ability of PDI to stage localized cancer is unknown.