University of BristolA new study being conducted by the University of Bristol, states that it is important for doctors to warn men that prostate cancer testing may lead to anxiety and distress. It appears that although most men handle the testing process quite well, one in five men may feel distressed at the thought of having a biopsy after discovering that they suffer from a high Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) level.

The study indicates that about 9 percent men still appear to feel anxious and gloomy despite being told that they do not suffer from cancer. The scientists wish for the psychological effects to be clearly explained to the men who ask for PSA tests.

Senior scientist and leader of the study, Kavita Vedhara said that, “At the moment, doctors are asked to warn men about the difficulties of interpreting the results of a PSA test. The test misses some cases and produces false alarms. While it’s crucial that men are aware of the difficulties they may face when deciding what to do with their results, it’s also important they’re aware that they may find the whole process stressful.

She further adds that, “We also found that in some men, the psychological effects lasted even after the men were told their biopsy was benign. Even 12 weeks after receiving a negative biopsy result, five per cent of men said they still felt distressed. It’s essential that doctors know about this, and that men are fully informed of the psychological challenges they may face during and after a PSA test.”

Prostate cancer may be diagnosed through high PSA levels, but it may so be the case that the protein is elevated by infection, a non-cancerous enlarged prostate or even recent exercise. Apparently, PSA testing is not routinely offered in the UK, although men can ask their doctors for the test incase they are concerned about contracting the disease. However, it seems that about 70 percent men receive negative biopsy results following increased PSA levels.

The study surveyed 330 men in the age group 50-69 throughout the test for prostate cancer as part of the Cancer Research UK-funded study. Martin Ledwick, head cancer information nurse at Cancer Research UK explained that for certain men early cancer detection maybe life saving. However, he further added that the test results do turn out abnormal for one in eight men without cancer being undetectable at that time.

Further tests and biopsies are required to rule out cancer for these men. The study indicates how important it is for men in their 50s and 60s to talk to their doctors regarding the benefits of getting a PSA test.

The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer.