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Primary care physicians' reported use of pre-screening discussions for prostate cancer screening: a cross-sectional survey

Suzanne K Linder12, Sarah T Hawley3, Crystale P Cooper4, Lawrence E Scholl5, Maria Jibaja-Weiss1 and Robert J Volk16*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA

2 Center of Health Promotion and Prevention Research, The University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, USA

3 Division of General Medicine, Ann Arbor VAMC, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

4 Soltera Center for Health Communication Research, Tucson, USA

5 Macro International Inc, Atlanta, USA

6 Houston Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics, Department of General Internal Medicine, The University of Texas M D Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA

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BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-19

Published: 18 March 2009



Professional medical organizations recommend individualized patient decision making about prostate cancer screening. Little is known about primary care physicians' use of pre-screening discussions to promote informed decision making for prostate cancer screening. The aim of this study is to explore physicians' use of pre-screening discussions and reasons why physicians would or would not try to persuade patients to be screened if they initially refuse testing.


Primary care physicians completed a self-administered survey about prostate cancer screening practices for informed decision making.


Sixty-six physicians (75.9%) completed the survey, and 63 were used in the analysis. Thirteen physicians (20.6%) reported not using prescreening discussions, 45 (71.4%) reported the use of prescreening discussions, and 3 (4.8%) reported neither ordering the PSA test nor discussing it with patients. Sixty-nine percent of physicians who reported not having discussions indicated they were more likely to screen African American patients for prostate cancer, compared to 50% of physicians who reported the use of discussions (Chi-square(1) = 1.62, p = .20). Similarly, 91% of physicians who reported not having discussions indicated they are more likely to screen patients with a family history of prostate cancer, compared to 46% of those who reported the use of discussion (Chi-square(1) = 13.27, p < .001). Beliefs about the scientific evidence and efficacy of screening, ethical concerns regarding patient autonomy, and concerns about time constraints differed between physicians who would and would not try to persuade a patient to be tested.


Although guidelines recommend discussing the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening, physicians report varying practice styles. Future research needs to consider the nature of discussions and the degree to which informed decision making is being achieved in clinical practice.