Informed consent for PSA screening: does it happen?

Eff Clin Pract. 1999 Jul-Aug;2(4):152-7.


Context: Screening for prostate cancer with serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is controversial. Ideally, patients should be aware of the potential benefits and risks related to testing.

Purpose: To assess whether patients remembered having PSA screening and to determine whether they recalled having a discussion with their primary care provider about the pros and cons of such testing.

Methods: A questionnaire was sent to patients who had PSA screening ordered by a primary care practitioner during a 2-month period at a university-affiliated Veterans Affairs medical center. Approximately 3 months after the PSA test was done, patients were asked about their baseline health as well as their knowledge of and attitudes toward screening with PSA and treatment for prostate cancer.

Results: The overall response rate was 197 out of 421 (46%) patients. Among 173 eligible respondents without prostate cancer, 53 (31%) were unaware that their physician had ordered a PSA test. Among the 120 patients who were aware of receiving the test, only 56 (47%) recalled having a discussion with their primary care provider about the risks and benefits of screening. Support for the test was more common among patients who recalled having PSA screening than those who did not recall having the test (91% vs. 70%, respectively; P = 0.003).

Conclusions: Patients who have PSA screening often are unable to recall relevant facts about the test and may have no knowledge of its associated risks and benefits. The role and effectiveness of obtaining verbal informed consent for PSA screening should be re-evaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Connecticut
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitals, Veterans
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / analysis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Risk Factors


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen