Comparison of digital rectal examination and biopsy results with the radical prostatectomy specimen.



Digital rectal examination is integral to staging prostate cancer. Ultrasound guided biopsy establishes the diagnosis, and it may provide useful information regarding disease grade and extent. Treatment decisions are largely based on information gained from digital rectal examination and biopsy but this information is only useful if it correlates with the radical prostatectomy specimen and prognosis. We correlated digital rectal examination and transrectal ultrasound guided biopsy results with a detailed analysis of the radical prostatectomy specimen.


The accuracy of an abnormal digital rectal examination for predicting the location and extent of cancer was assessed in 89 patients thought to have clinical stage T2 disease. We evaluated 155 patients with clinical stages T1c and T2 disease to correlate the location of positive biopsies with the tumor site in the prostate. Radical prostatectomy specimens were completely sectioned at 2 mm. intervals, and tumor extent and location were recorded.


In 85 patients a unilateral lesion was suspicious on digital rectal examination, that is stage cT2. The final pathological review revealed cancer on the suspicious side in 82 cases (96%) with tumor confined to the same lobe in only 23 (27%), bilateral disease in 59 (69%) and tumor confined to the contralateral lobe in 3 (4%). In 4 patients with a palpable bilateral abnormality a bilateral lesion was confirmed on final pathological evaluation. Digital rectal examination demonstrated a 36 and 31% incidence of extracapsular tumor extension and positive surgical margins, respectively, on the clinically benign side. In 100 patients only unilateral biopsy was positive. The final pathological evaluation revealed cancer in the biopsy positive side in 95 cases (95%) with tumor confined to the ipsilateral lobe in only 26 (26%), bilateral disease in 69 (69%) and tumor confined to the contralateral lobe in 5 (5%). In 46 of the 55 patients (84%) with bilateral positive biopsies tumor involved both sides but the pathologist did not identify cancer in both lobes in 9 (16%). While 100 patients had a unilateral negative biopsy, analysis of the prostatectomy specimen revealed carcinoma in the benign lobe in 74 (74%). Moreover, extracapsular tumor extension and a positive surgical margin were observed on the biopsy negative side in 31% of the patients. The degree to which digital rectal examination and biopsy results confirmed the final pathological evaluation was assessed using the kappa statistic, which revealed only slight agreement with each factor. The correlation of digital rectal examination and biopsy results with the location of extracapsular extension and positive margins was evaluated by the Spearman coefficient of correlation, which indicated poor agreement. When patients with unilateral versus bilateral positive biopsy were compared with respect to prognostic parameters, the difference was statistically significant for initial serum prostate specific antigen, the percentage of surface involved by tumor, biopsy and final Gleason scores, and the incidence of extracapsular extension of tumor.


Digital rectal examination and the interpretation of prostate biopsy are not accurate clinical tools for defining the location and extent of prostatic carcinoma. Bilateral positive biopsy may be useful as an adjunct to the current clinical staging system.