The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) study, also found that providing the information prior to the appointment left the patients more knowledgeable on the potential benefits and harms associated with testing for prostate specific antigen, the marker used to screen for prostate cancer.

The overall result was that men were more engaged in the decision-making process. Participants often took significant control over whether to be screened as opposed to deferring to the doctor’s opinion.

The study was unclear, however, as to whether pre-visit educational aids facilitated a broader decision-making process called “shared decision making,” said Alex Krist, M.D., an assistant professor of family medicine in the VCU School of Medicine.

The study enrolled 497 men, between the ages of 50 and 70, who were undergoing a health maintenance examination. The men were split into test groups that were given either an Internet-based or paper educational aid or no material at all prior to their visits with their physicians. The Internet-based aid was intended to provide an easy means for a doctor’s office to direct patients to information prior to an office visit.

“Whether to be screened for prostate cancer is a difficult decision for patients.” Krist said. “Given that informed patients are less likely to opt for screening, clinicians clearly need to provide patients information about the risks and benefits of screening prior to testing. Ultimately, this will allow each patient’s values to be incorporated into their screening decision.”

Prostate cancer screening has associated risks with uncertain benefits. Some patients may choose not to be screened because abnormal results frequently occur due to factors other than cancer, Krist said. In addition, testing may uncover insignificant cancers that patients and doctors feel compelled to treat, and treatment has significant associated risks.

MEDICA.de; Source: Virginia Commonwealth University