Purpose: We determined if there has been a significant change in pathological stage or prognosis of patients with clinically localized prostate cancer treated with radical prostatectomy between 1983 and 1995. During this period the methods of detection of prostate cancer changed to include, in recent years, a large proportion of nonpalpable cancers detected by prostate specific antigen (PSA).
Materials and methods: The method of diagnosis, pathological features and prognosis (PSA detected progression-free probability) of 754 consecutive patients treated by 1 surgeon for clinical stages T1 to 3NXMO prostate cancer from 1983 to 1995 were analyzed by year of diagnosis.
Results: There was a marked increase in the annual number of radical prostatectomies performed with time. The proportion of cancers initially detected by transurethral resection decreased markedly after 1989. Beginning in 1990 nonpalpable cancers detected by PSA increased substantially to 52% by 1995. However, there was no significant change in preoperative serum PSA, tumor volume or pathological stage during the study period. The proportion of patients with well differentiated cancer decreased somewhat, while those with moderate to poorly differentiated (Gleason sum 7) cancers increased significantly after 1991. There was no increase with time in the proportion of patients with a small (less than 0.5 cm.3), well or moderately differentiated (Gleason grades 1 to 3) cancer confined to the prostate (an indolent or clinically unimportant cancer) but fewer patients in recent years had an advanced cancer (established extraprostatic extension with a positive surgical margin, seminal vesicle invasion or lymph node metastases). The actuarial probability of progression after surgery was similar for patients treated from 1983 to 1987, 1988 to 1991 and 1992 to 1995.
Conclusions: Despite marked changes in the number of patients treated each year and the method by which cancers were first detected, we found no change in pathological stage or prognosis (progression rate) for patients treated with radical prostatectomy between 1983 and 1995. Despite concerns that the increased detection of prostate cancer could lead to many more patients being treated unnecessarily for small, indolent cancers, we found no increase in the proportion of such cancers with time.