The fear of prostate cancer in men with lower urinary tract symptoms: should symptomatic men be screened?


C. Brown, Urological Research Fellow, The Clinical Effectiveness Unit, Royal College of Surgeons of England, 35/43 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3PE, UK. e-mail:



To explore the concerns and worries in men with uncomplicated lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS, but no evidence of prostate cancer) relating to their symptoms.

Patients and methods

There is no current prostate cancer screening programme in the UK. Evidence suggests that men with LUTS have the same risk of prostate cancer as aged-matched asymptomatic men. However, most men with LUTS are ‘screened’ with a digital rectal examination (DRE) and prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing as part of routine assessment. Whether this screening offers any benefit to patients and whether national screening for prostate cancer and subsequent early treatment offer any long-term survival or quality of life benefit is uncertain. Thus 30 men with uncomplicated LUTS were qualitatively interviewed to explore their concerns and worries about their symptoms. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and subjected to content analysis using validated techniques.


Of the 30 men, 22 (73%) expressed a fear of prostate cancer at the time of their initial presentation. This fear was independent of race, social class and symptom severity; older men were less worried. Of the 22, 15 (68%) stated that after reassurance their symptoms were less bothersome and easier to cope with.


These findings suggest there is a considerable gain in health by explicitly addressing the concerns of prostate cancer in men with uncomplicated LUTS. Informing these men of their true risk of prostate cancer (before or after a DRE and PSA estimate) may alleviate much of the bother associated with their symptoms. Despite no evidence of any greater risk of prostate cancer than in asymptomatic men, symptomatic men should continue to be screened after appropriate counselling.