Q: My husband had a radical prostatectomy, but now he is being told that he has a biochemical recurrence. Can anything help?

A: Yes, radiation therapy and hormone therapy have both been shown to help some men with a biochemical recurrence. In some cases, the two treatments are combined.

In a recent study in Cancer, researchers evaluated data on 3,071 men who had undergone a radical prostatectomy. After about 11 years of follow-up, 18 percent of the men had experienced a biochemical recurrence.

Men who experienced a biochemical recurrence did have a higher risk of dying, especially if their PSA value doubled within six months of surgery. The good news, however, is that men who received radiation therapy or hormone therapy had a reduction in risk.

In this study, biochemical recurrence was defined as a detectable PSA of greater than 0.2 ng/mL on two consecutive postoperative visits. The study noted out that newer, ultrasensitive PSA tests can detect PSA levels as low as 0.01 ng/dL. It's unknown whether radiation therapy or hormone therapy is useful in this instance.

Publication Review By: H. Ballentine Carter, M.D.

Published: 21 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 19 Feb 2015