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Knowledge, attitudes and experience associated with testing for prostate cancer: a comparison between male doctors and men in the community

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Abstract Background: 

Debate about testing for prostate cancer using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and digital rectal examination (DRE) continues. The evidence of benefit from screening for prostate cancer using PSA tests is inconclusive, and it is unclear how PSA can be used most effectively in the detection of prostate cancer. Given the lack of consensus, it is important that consumers understand the issues in a way that will permit them to decide whether or not to have a test and, if symptomatic, how their condition is managed. Aims: 

To compare prostate cancer knowledge, attitudes and testing experiences reported by male doctors and men in the community, despite the lack of evidence of a benefit. Methods: 

The primary method for ascertaining the attitudes of male doctors (MD) was a telephone survey, with some doctors electing to complete a written survey. Each MD was selected, at random, from a register of male practitioners aged ≥ 49 years of age. A total of 266 MD participated in the survey. The community sample (CS) was accessed using a telephone survey. Five hundred male Victorian residents aged ≥ 49 years of age participated in the study. Results:

  Knowledge − Overall, 55% of the CS indicated ¬≠correctly that prostate disease is sometimes cancer, compared to 83% of MD.

  Attitudes − Fifty-five per cent of MD believed men should be tested for prostate disease at least every 2 years, compared to 68% of men in the CS.

  Testing experience − Forty-five per cent of MD had been tested for prostate cancer in the past, and 92% of those tests were reported as negative. In the CS, 56% had been tested for prostate cancer in the past, and 78% of the results were reported as negative. The ¬≠significant independent predictors of having had a prostate test among MD were: (i) age (≥ 60 years; odds ratio (OR): 1.59; 95% confidence intervals (CI): 1.30−1.88) and (ii) positive attitudes towards regular testing for prostate cancer (OR: 2.27; 95% CI: 1.98−2.56). The significant independent predictors for the CS were: (i) age (≥ 60 years; OR: 1.65; 95% CI: 1.40−1.89), (ii) being married (OR: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.00−1.60), (iii) knowledge that prostate disease was sometimes cancer (OR: 1.46; 95% CI: 1.26−1.66) and (iv) positive attitudes towards regular testing for prostate cancer (OR: 2.12; 95% CI: 1.90−2.34). Conclusions:

The results highlight that testing for prostate cancer is widespread in the community and in the medical profession. Further research should be undertaken to identify how to help men make fully informed decisions about prostate cancer testing. (Intern Med J 2002; 32: 215−223)

Keywords: attitudes; community; knowledge; male practitioners; prostate cancer; testing experience

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The Cancer Council Victoria, 2: Department of Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria and 3: Department of Surgery, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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