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J Urol. 2001 Nov;166(5):1684-7.

Efficacy of digital rectal examination after radiotherapy for prostate cancer.

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Radiation Oncology Division and Clinical Investigation Department, Naval Medical Center, University of California, San Diego, California 92134-1014, USA.



Digital rectal examination is widely performed for following patients with localized prostate cancer after definitive therapy. This examination has marginal efficacy for detecting initial prostate cancer and postoperative recurrence. To determine the efficacy of digital rectal examination in terms of new information provided after radiotherapy we analyzed the results of digital rectal examination in the followup of patients with prostate cancer after radiotherapy.


We performed a nonrandomized study in 235 consecutive patients with prostate cancer followed at a large tertiary care military hospital between January 1, 1995 and December 31, 1999. All patients had been treated with prostate radiotherapy and had no evidence of metastatic disease at the first visit within that interval. Digital rectal examination was done at followup and the main outcome measure was new information provided by that examination.


A total of 1,544 digital rectal examinations were performed in 1,627 visits. New information was provided by digital rectal examination in only 30% of 286 abnormal examinations, of which more than three-quarters were related to bleeding and would otherwise have been noted on routine examination by the primary care provider. All 8 persistent recurrent prostate nodules were noted in the context of increasing prostate specific antigen.


Routine digital rectal examination in patients with prostate cancer after radiotherapy may be omitted from followup protocols.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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