Objectives: False-positive screening tests may induce persistent psychological distress. This study was designed to determine whether a positive screening test with negative biopsy findings for prostate cancer is associated with worsened mental health during short-term follow-up.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey of two groups of men approximately 2 months after testing: group 1, 109 men with an abnormal prostate-specific antigen level or digital rectal examination findings but with negative biopsy findings for prostate cancer; and group 2, 101 age-matched primary care patients with PSA screening levels in the reference range (less than 4 ng/mL). Primary outcomes included state anxiety and prostate cancer-related worry. Secondary outcomes included Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36-item Health Survey subscales and sexual function items. Multivariate regression techniques were used to adjust for differences in baseline covariates.
Results: Group 1 patients were more worried than group 2 patients about getting prostate cancer (mean worry 3.9 versus 4.5, P = 0.0001, using a 5-point scale, with 1 indicating extreme worry and 5 no worry). Group 1 patients also perceived their risk of prostate cancer to be significantly greater than that of controls (P = 0.001). No significant differences were found across state anxiety or Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36-item Health Survey subscales. Sexual bother was greater for group 1 patients, with 19% reporting that sexual function was a moderate to big problem compared with 10% of group 2 patients (P = 0.0001).
Conclusions: Men with abnormal prostate cancer screening tests report increased cancer-related worry and more problems with sexual function, despite having a negative biopsy result. Effective counseling interventions are needed before prostate cancer screening and during follow-up.