Prostate Cancer in Primary Care

Adv Ther. 2018 Sep;35(9):1285-1294. doi: 10.1007/s12325-018-0766-1. Epub 2018 Aug 10.


Prostate cancer is a common malignancy seen worldwide. The incidence has risen in recent decades, mainly fuelled by more widespread use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, although prostate cancer mortality rates have remained relatively static over that time period. A man's risk of prostate cancer is affected by his age and family history of the disease. Men with prostate cancer generally present symptomatically in primary care settings, although some diagnoses are made in asymptomatic men undergoing opportunistic PSA screening. Symptoms traditionally thought to correlate with prostate cancer include lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), such as nocturia and poor urinary stream, erectile dysfunction and visible haematuria. However, there is significant crossover in symptoms between prostate cancer and benign conditions affecting the prostate such as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and prostatitis, making it very challenging to distinguish between them on the basis of symptoms. The evidence for the performance of PSA in asymptomatic and symptomatic men for the diagnosis of prostate cancer is equivocal. PSA is subject to false positive and false negative results, affecting its clinical utility as a standalone test. Clinicians need to counsel men about the risks and benefits of PSA testing to inform their decision-making. Digital rectal examination (DRE) by primary care clinicians has some evidence to show discrimination between benign and malignant conditions affecting the prostate. Patients referred to secondary care for diagnostic testing for prostate cancer will typically undergo a transrectal or transperineal biopsy, where a number of samples are taken and sent for histological examination. These biopsies are invasive procedures with side effects and a risk of infection and sepsis, and alternative tests such as multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging (mpMRI) are currently being trialled for their accuracy and safety in diagnosing clinically significant prostate cancer.

Keywords: Diagnosis; LUTS; Primary care; Prostate cancer; Prostate-specific antigen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Biopsy
  • Digital Rectal Examination
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / complications
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.6870797