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Follow-up surveillance during and after treatment for prostate cancer

David F Penson, MD, MPH
Section Editors
Nicholas Vogelzang, MD
W Robert Lee, MD, MS, MEd
Jerome P Richie, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Michael E Ross, MD


The widespread availability of highly sensitive testing for serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) has led to major shifts in the epidemiology of prostate cancer. These shifts were initially manifested by an increased number of cases, a younger age, and an earlier clinical stage at diagnosis. There has been a decline in the incidence of prostate cancer, presumably due to a decrease in prostate cancer screening in response to the recommendation of the United States Preventive Services Task Force [1,2].

Despite this, clinicians are managing an increasing number of men with localized prostate cancer who have received definitive treatment of their primary tumor (generally with radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy [RT]). These men require follow-up to detect local recurrence or disseminated disease as well as for complications of their treatment. (See 'Localized prostate cancer' below and "Initial approach to low- and very low-risk clinically localized prostate cancer" and "Initial management of regionally localized intermediate-, high-, and very high-risk prostate cancer".)

In addition, men who have metastatic disease require follow-up to assess the efficacy of their treatment and identify patients who might benefit from alternative treatments. (See 'Metastatic prostate cancer' below and "Overview of the treatment of disseminated prostate cancer".)

The follow-up surveillance for men who have received definitive treatment for prostate cancer as well as those being treated for metastatic disease is discussed in this topic. The natural history and follow-up of patients who have a rising serum PSA following definitive treatment and the follow-up of those being managed initially with active surveillance are discussed separately. (See "Active surveillance for men with low-risk, clinically localized prostate cancer", section on 'Surveillance strategy' and "Rising serum PSA following local therapy for prostate cancer: Diagnostic evaluation".)


Most men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer have localized disease and undergo definitive therapy with curative intent (radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation therapy [RT], brachytherapy). Selected patients with low-risk disease may be managed with active surveillance, with definitive therapy deferred until there is evidence of progressive disease. (See "Initial approach to low- and very low-risk clinically localized prostate cancer".)


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Literature review current through: Mar 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 30, 2015.
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