Some of the men we talked to had known little about the PSA test or the function of the prostate gland until they were invited to take part in a university research study. These men had been asked to read and compare information about the test presented in several different leaflets and booklets (for more information about prostate cancer see the Healthtalkonline - prostate cancer site).
Some of the men who had looked at the different information leaflets had not had significant urinary symptoms, and they concluded that they would not want to have a PSA test unless they developed symptoms (see 'Why some men have not had a PSA test').
Not everyone felt this way. People sometimes feel obliged to accept any medical tests that they are offered, in case they later regret turning it down. One man, for example, read the information and questioned whether there was much point in having a test that was so uncertain. However, he said that if he were offered a PSA test he would accept it, even if he had no symptoms.
A few of the men, particularly those who had taken part in the university research discussed above, talked about what they might do if they developed symptoms. But most of those we talked to spoke about the PSA test from their own experience. Often they had had urinary problems or other symptoms and had consulted a doctor, which had led to a PSA test. Others had asked their doctor for a PSA test for various reasons.
Because the test is of uncertain benefit doctors are supposed to inform their patients about the benefits and limitations of the PSA test before one is done. Some men said that their GPs had discussed the test and had offered them a useful information leaflet.
The NHS Screening programme has developed the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme:
“The aim of Prostate Cancer Risk Management is to ensure that men who are concerned about the risk of prostate cancer receive clear and balanced information about the advantages and disadvantages of the PSA test and treatment for prostate cancer. This will help men to decide whether they want to have the test.
Information packs have been sent to General Practitioners to assist them in the counselling of men who enquire about testing. The pack will help the primary care team to provide men with information on the benefits and limitations of the PSA test. It comprises a reference booklet and summary sheet for the primary care team and a book of tear off patient information sheets. Prostate CancerStats are also included.”
Others had found information about the PSA test in newspapers or had heard about it on the radio or television.
Several men searched the Internet for information about the PSA test and at the same time found useful and sometimes reassuring information about benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate and prostate cancer.
Many men found it hard to understand the meaning of their PSA test results and some searched the internet for information about this aspect of the test (see 'Getting the results and understanding them').
Last reviewed October 2012.
Last updated October 2012.