Since the late 1980s, early detection and monitoring of men for prostate cancer by serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurement has resulted in an increase in the number of men presenting with a potentially curable disease. During the same time, in an attempt to provide a definitive cure, radical prostatectomy has been performed increasingly and now is regarded as the management option of choice for many patients with clinically localized prostate cancer. Radical prostatectomy involves the removal of all of the prostate tissue resulting in the serum PSA level to steadily decline to an undetectable level within 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Despite improvements in surgical technique and a marked downward stage shift brought about by serum PSA testing, approximately 25% of men ultimately will experience a subsequent increase in serum PSA to a detectable level indicating disease recurrence after radical prostatectomy within 15 years. In this brief review, the factors associated with a high risk for disease recurrence after radical prostatectomy are discussed. Factors indicating whether the increasing serum PSA is caused by local recurrence or metastatic disease and the management options available to address serum PSA recurrence also are discussed.
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