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[Perspectives] Prostate cancer

For much of human history men have not, typically, lived long enough to die from prostate cancer. Descriptions of terminal dribbling, urinary retention, and the signs of bony metastases can be found in case records from many times and places, but patients and practitioners seem to have regarded them as the price to be paid for surviving into middle age and beyond. Surgeons occasionally tried to ease their patients’ suffering with catheterisation—one unnamed British patient in the early 19th century was catheterised almost 7000 times—or dilating the prostate with a probe.