Medically and economically appropriate follow-up schedule for prostate cancer patients after radical prostatectomy


  • This paper was presented at the symposium on ‘Cancer patients follow-up in terms of medical and economical view’ at the 88th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Urological Association, 9 June 2000, Sapporo, Japan.

Masashi Niwakawa Urology Division, National Cancer Center Hospital, 1-1, Tsukiji, 5 Chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0045, Japan. Email:



Background : Our goal was to determine the optimal frequency and method of follow-up after radical prostatectomy to minimize medical cost without adversely affecting patients.


Two hundred and twenty-one patients who underwent a radical prostatectomy with or without adjuvant androgen deprivation from 1989 to 1999 were selected for the study. Eighty percent of the patients received postoperative androgen deprivation. Tumor recurrence was strictly defined as detectable serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) and/or clinical findings such as local tumor detection or bone metastasis. Thirty of 221 patients experienced tumor recurrence. Risk of tumor recurrence, procedures for detection of recurrence, and PSA doubling time after biochemical failure were analyzed.


None of the 30 patients who were examined showed definitive local recurrence or metastatic sites on the imaging study at the time of initial PSA detection, and there were no observed recurrences in the absence of detectable serum PSA. In patients who showed elevated PSA within 12 months after radical prostatectomy, PSA levels rapidly increased with doubling times ranging from 1.2 to 13.7 months. Excluding those patients, the doubling time of PSA levels ranged from 2.8 to 31.5 months.


Prostate specific antigen screening is sufficient to detect treatment failure after radical prostatectomy, irrespective of adjuvant hormone therapy. Based on the calculated doubling time, the longest advisable interval between checks of PSA levels is estimated to be four months within the first year after radical prostatectomy, and biannually or annually thereafter. Continuously elevated PSA levels or clinical symptoms indicate surveys for local recurrences and distant metastases.