Is Prostate Specific Antigen of Clinical Importance in Evaluating Outcome after Radical Prostatectomy
Current bias would conclude that elevation of serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) after radical prostatectomy infers failure of the procedure. Since April 1987 preoperative and postoperative serum PSA levels have been obtained on 226 patients who underwent radical perineal prostatectomy for presumed organ confined prostate cancer (stage T1-2N0M0). Clinical failure as defined by elevation of serum acid phosphatase, biopsy proved local recurrence or evidence of malignant disease on bone scan has occurred in 3.9% of the patients with organ confined, 7.0% with specimen confined and 13.2% with margin positive disease. However, when a PSA elevation of greater than 0.5 ng./ ml. was used as an indicator of failure the failure rate became 9.8% for the organ confined group, 39.4% for the specimen confined group and 66.0% for margin positive group. Of the patients who failed clinically the interval from initial elevation of postoperative PSA to clinical detection of failure ranged from 2 to 28 months (median 16). Among the patients with an elevated postoperative PSA level but who have not clinically failed followup ranged from 4 to 46 months (median 23). A total of 11 patients had no evidence of failure at greater than 36 months despite the elevated postoperative serum PSA level.
These PSA elevations in patients who undergo supposed curative therapy are distressing. However, at this time the majority of these patients have not failed. In the clinically cured patient biochemical evidence of failure may not be sufficient to change the treatment course.