Primary care physicians' use of an informed decision-making process for prostate cancer screening

Robert J. Volk, Suzanne K. Linder, Michael A. Kallen, James M. Galliher, Mindy S. Spano, Patricia Dolan Mullen, Stephen J. Spann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


PURPOSE Leading professional organizations acknowledge the importance of an informed decision-making process for prostate cancer screening. We describe primary care physicians' reports of their prescreening discussions about the potential harms and benef ts of prostate cancer screening. METHODS Members of the American Academy of Family Physicians National Research Network responded to a survey that included (1) an indicator of practice styles related to discussing harms and benef ts of prostate-specif c antigen testing and providing a screening recommendation or letting patients decide, and (2) indicators ref ecting physicians' beliefs about prostate cancer screening. The survey was conducted between July 2007 and January 2008. RESULTS Of 426 physicians 246 (57.7%) completed the survey questionnaire. Compared with physicians who ordered screening without discussion (24.3%), physicians who discussed harms and benef ts with patients and then let them decide (47.7%) were more likely to endorse beliefs that scientif c evidence does not support screening, that patients should be told about the lack of evidence, and that patients have a right to know the limitations of screening; they were also less likely to endorse the belief that there was no need to educate patients because they wanted to be screened. Concerns about medicolegal risk associated with not screening were more common among physicians who discussed the harms and benef ts and recommended screening than among physicians who discussed screening and let their patients decide. CONCLUSIONS Much of the variability in physicians' use of an informed decision-making process can be attributed to beliefs about screening. Concerns about medicolegal risk remain an important barrier for shared decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Decision making
  • Early detection of cancer
  • Physicians
  • Primary care
  • Prostatic neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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