Approximately 80% of men with an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level who had a benign biopsy did not experience significant distress from these diagnostic procedures. These results were recently published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Men 50 years of age or older in the United States are often offered PSA testing for the early detection of prostate cancer. The test may be offered at a younger age to men at high risk of prostate cancer. The PSA test measures proteins that are produced and shed by the prostate. PSA levels tend to be elevated when prostate cancer is present, but levels can also be elevated in benign (non-cancerous) conditions affecting the prostate. A concern with the use of PSA testing is that it may identify some cancers that do not require treatment. This is sometimes referred to as “overdiagnosis.” Research suggests that some prostate cancers are very slow-growing and will not affect a man’s health during his lifetime. Diagnosis and treatment of these cancers exposes men to the complications of cancer treatment without providing a benefit.

In this study 330 men with an elevated PSA level followed by a benign biopsy were evaluated for distress and negative mood. Mood and distress were measured twice during the diagnostic process and twice after a benign biopsy. Only 20% reported high distress and tense/anxious moods related to the biopsy procedure.

Although most of the men in this study coped well with prostate cancer diagnostic testing, awareness of potential diagnostic uncertainty distress is an important part of the informed decision-making process about prostate cancer screening for men who are considering being screened.


Macefield RC, Metcalfe C, Lane JA, et al. Impact of prostate cancer testing: an evaluation of the emotional consequences of a negative biopsy result. British Journal of Cancer [early online publication]. April 6, 2010

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