PSA testing: are patients aware of what lies ahead?

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2006 May;88(3):284-8. doi: 10.1308/003588406X98685.


Introduction: Screening for prostate cancer with serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) remains a controversial topic. The UK NHS Executive has issued extensive guidance stressing the importance of adequate counselling prior to performing this test. This study aims to assess men's knowledge of the PSA test at the time of their referral and their attitude towards screening.

Patients and methods: A total of 219 men referred to urology via the 'fast track' prostate cancer service were recruited into the study. Of these, 191 were referred from primary care and 28 from secondary care. All men completed a questionnaire regarding their knowledge and expectation of the test.

Results: The response rate for completed questionnaires was 100%. Overall, 91 (41.5%) men were aware that their PSA had been performed prior to referral and only 79 (36%) men understood why the test was being done. Patients referred from secondary care appeared to be better informed. Despite these figures, 175 (80%) men said they would recommend PSA testing to a friend or colleague, and 196 (89%) men said the test should be broadly publicised.

Conclusions: Nearly two-thirds of the men referred to urology with an elevated PSA were unaware that they had even had their PSA done. Information about the limitations of PSA testing and the consequence of a positive test result had been deficient. Informed counselling for the PSA test should form part of the consultation of any physician intending to undertake this test whether for lower urinary tract symptoms or for prostate cancer screening.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Counseling
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen