Purpose: To evaluate the psychological implications of an apparently false-positive screening result for prostate cancer.
Methods: The sample comprised 167 men with a benign biopsy result in response to a suspicious screening test result (biopsy group) and 233 men with a normal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test result (control group). The men responded to a questionnaire within about 6 weeks of their biopsy or PSA results. They were asked about demographic characteristics, medical history, psychological effects, biopsy experience, and prostate cancer knowledge.
Results: The survey response rate was 85% (400/471). The mean (+/- SD) age of respondents was 60 +/- 9 years (range, 40 to 88 years); 88% (n = 350) were white. Forty-nine percent (81/167) of men in the biopsy group reported having thought about prostate cancer either "a lot" or "some of the time", compared with 18% (42/230) in the control group (P < 0.001). In addition, 40% (67/167) in the biopsy group reported having worried "a lot" or "some of the time" that they may develop prostate cancer, compared with 8% (18/231) in the control group (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Men who underwent prostate biopsy more often reported having thought and worried about prostate cancer, despite having received a benign result. This underrecognized human cost of screening should be considered in the debate about the benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening.