Rectal examination in the detection of prostatic cancer
The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za
Since the aetiology of prostatic cancer is unknown, and therapy for metastatic disease non-curative, a decrease in the mortality rate from this condition can only be achieved by early diagnosis and effective treatment of the primary tumour. For diagnosis of localised cancer no practical alternative exists to rectal palpation. Of 629 cases of prostatic cancer seen at Tygerberg Hospital, the disease had metastasised in 29% of white and 58% of coloured patients at initial diagnosis. Prostatism or urinary retention was the presenting complaint in 74.7% of patients. The letters of referral of 97 patients were examined to determine whether prostatic cancer had been diagnosed by the primary care physician before referral. Rectal examination by the referring physician was recorded or implied in 64.9% of patients, and in those patients who underwent rectal examination before referral prostatic cancer was diagnosed in 54%. These findings imply that the opportunity for early diagnosis of prostatic cancer may be missed in many patients in whom rectal examination by the primary physician is indicated.
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