Date Published: 20 March 2006
Experiences of taking the PSA test for prostate cancer
Many men may think that having the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test for prostate cancer is a sensible part of responsible health care, much as many women have cervical and breast screening. However, those who delve further into information about the test and what might happen if the PSA level is found to be high are sometimes surprised to discover that there are pros and cons to having the test.
PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen. A raised level of PSA in the blood can be an early indication of prostate cancer. However, other conditions which have nothing to do with cancer, can also increase the level of PSA, hence some physicians are undecided about its usefulness.
John Humphrys, the broadcaster and journalist, has introduced a new part of the DIPEx (www.dipex.org) website which will help men to make a decision whether or not to have a test. The site is based on research by Dr Alison Chapple in Oxford's Department of Primary Health Care.
On the DIPEx website visitors can see and hear men from all over the country talking about the PSA test. Forty-two men talked to Dr Chapple and explained how they made the decision whether or not to have a test and what influenced that decision. Her analysis of what men considered important about their experience is shown on the DIPEx site with video and audio excerpts taken from the interviews.
The test is available on the National Health Service but unlike some other tests, there are both advantages and disadvantages to having it, hence men should know about the benefits and the limitations of the test before proceeding.
Dr Chapple said:
" Men may have read about the PSA test in the newspapers, or heard about it on the radio, or they may have family members who have had prostate cancer. Whatever their circumstances they may be wondering whether or not to have the PSA test. This latest addition to the DIPEx website will show them how other men have made their decisions."
Some of the men who took part in the interviews had had a PSA test but were unclear about the result and its implications. Others had been told by their consultant that their PSA level was abnormally high, and that they needed to have a prostate biopsy to make an accurate diagnosis. A few had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and needed to think about treatment options. All their experiences will help other men make informed decisions about their health care.
Dr Chapple and her colleagues have submitted results of this work for publication in peer-reviewed journals. They hope to publish findings related to men's experience of the PSA test and findings related to men's experience of the prostate biopsy.
Source: : Oxford University, England (UK)