To evaluate the psychosocial impact of participation in a population-based prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing programme, akin to screening, and to explore the relationship between urinary symptoms reported before PSA testing and the response to the subsequent PSA result.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
This prospective questionnaire study was nested within the case-finding component of the ProtecT (prostate testing for cancer and treatment) feasibility study (ISRCTN20141297). Men aged 50–69 years from 18 general practices in three cities in the UK completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the Short Form-12 (SF-12) Health Survey, and the International Continence Society ‘male’ (ICSmale) questionnaires before giving consent for a PSA test in a community clinic (baseline). Men with an ‘abnormal’ PSA result returned for further investigation (including biopsy) and repeated these questionnaires before biopsy.
At baseline, study participants had similar levels of anxiety and depression to the general male population. There was no increase in the HADS scores, or reduction in the SF-12 mental health component summary score, on attendance at the biopsy clinic after receiving an ‘abnormal’ PSA result. Urinary symptoms were associated with levels of anxiety and depression before receiving a PSA result (baseline), but were not associated with anxiety and depression at biopsy independently of baseline scores. Therefore changes in anxiety or depression at biopsy did not appear to differ between those with and without urinary symptoms.
This study confirms the findings of other studies that the deleterious effects of receiving an abnormal PSA result during population screening are not identified by generic health-status questionnaires. Comparisons with outcomes of studies measuring cancer-specific distress and using qualitative research methods raise the question of whether a prostate cancer screening-specific instrument is required. However, a standardized measure of anxiety identified differences at baseline between those who did and did not report urinary symptoms. These findings suggest that it might be advisable to better inform men undergoing PSA testing about the uncertain relationship between urinary symptoms and prostate cancer, to minimize baseline levels of psychological distress.