Examining the association of health literacy and numeracy with prostate-related knowledge and prostate cancer treatment regret

Urol Oncol. 2020 Aug;38(8):682.e11-682.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.urolonc.2020.04.007. Epub 2020 May 21.


Introduction: Educational materials used in prostate cancer shared decision-making are often written above the health literacy levels of the patients that may benefit the most from such tools. Poor understanding the oncologic and functional outcomes of prostate cancer treatment may influence patient regret during this process. In this study, we assess the association between health literacy, numeracy, prostate-related knowledge and treatment regret in a diverse population.

Materials and methods: Patients obtaining care between June and August of 2016 at both community-based and academic tertiary care facilities were assessed for health literacy and numeracy using validated instruments. Prostate knowledge was tested in those patients without a history of prostate cancer using a 29-item questionnaire and patient-level predictors of knowledge were assessed. Prostate cancer treatment regret was assessed in those patients who had a history of prostate cancer.

Results: A total of 90 patients were enrolled, 38 (42%) of whom had a history of prostate cancer. African American race (I = 0.039), financial strain (P < 0.001), and educational attainment (P < 0.001) were all associated with lower health literacy on multivariable analysis. Possessing a professional degree (P = 0.021) and higher health literacy (P = 0.001) were associated with greater prostate-related knowledge. Of those with a history of prostate cancer, 9 (24%) expressed treatment regret. Patients with regret were more likely to be African American (n = 6, 66.7% vs. 5, 17.2%, P = 0.004), not married (P = 0.016), and score lower on the literacy (1.0 vs. 8.0, P = 0.009) and numeracy (10.0 vs. 16.0, P = 0.016) scales.

Conclusions: We identified lower health literacy among African American men, and lower prostate-related knowledge in those with poor health literacy. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show an association between health literacy and prostate cancer treatment regret.

Keywords: Academic tertiary care facility; Community practice; Health literacy; Prostate cancer; Regret; Shared decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emotions*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mathematical Concepts
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Self Report