Impact of undergoing prostate carcinoma screening on prostate carcinoma-related knowledge and distress

Kathryn L. Taylor, Rebecca Shelby, Jon Kerner, William Redd, John Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Despite the ongoing controversy regarding the utility of prostate carcinoma (PCa) screening, the prevalence of asymptomatic men who participate in free PCa screening programs is on the rise. However, this increased awareness has not been associated with increased knowledge about the potential limitations of PCa creening. We conducted a prospective assessment to delineate men's motivations for undergoing screening and to determine the impact of screening on psychological distress and on men's knowledge about PCa screening. METHODS. We conducted two telephone interviews with a group of 136 men registered to undergo free PCa screening at two hospital-based sites. The first interview was conducted before screening and the second interview followed receipt of the screening results. Interviews assessed demographics and screening history, reasons for undergoing the current screening, cancer-related and general psychological distress, knowledge of risk factors for PCa, and knowledge of the benefits and limitations of screening. Only participants with normal screening results were included in these analyses. RESULTS. "Seeking peace of mind about prostate cancer" was rated as the most important reason for undergoing screening. PCa-related distress decreased following receipt of a negative result (P < 0.01). Stratified analyses indicated that this was particularly true among younger men and African American men (both Ps < 0.001). Awareness of the benefits of screening was very high, but awareness of limitations was low, with fewer limitations reported following screening compared with pre-screening (P < 0.01). Although awareness of the established risk factors improved following screening, controversial risk factors (i.e., those with limited empirical support) and factors that were unrelated to PCa risk were also rated as more important in the development of PCa than they were before screening (all Ps < 0.05). Therefore, the results may reflect that following screening, participants were simply more likely to endorse plausible risk factors, rather than actually reflecting an increase in participants' knowledge. CONCLUSIONS. These results suggest the importance of developing informed consent procedures and educational programs for the asymptomatic men who participate in free prostate screening programs each year, as the decision to be screened is being made without the benefit of a full understanding of the current state of medical knowledge about PCa screening. Until the definitive results of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial are available, improved patient education is needed to assist men in making screening decisions consistent with their own preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1037-1044
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2002


  • Informed consent
  • Mass screening
  • Prostate
  • Prostate carcinoma screening


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