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J Natl Med Assoc. 2018 Oct;110(5):491-500. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2017.12.007. Epub 2018 May 7.

Primary Care Physicians Beliefs about Prostate-Specific Antigen Evidence Uncertainty, Screening Efficacy, and Test Use.

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Department of Leadership Studies, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, NC, USA. Electronic address:
Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Public Policy Research Institute and Department of Sociology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA.
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA, USA.



Little is known about primary care physicians' (PCPs) beliefs about prostate cancer screening efficacy, evidence uncertainty, and their actual screening behaviors. We examined factors associated with PCP beliefs about screening efficacy and uncertainty and whether beliefs were associated with prostate specific-antigen (PSA) test use.


The 2008 National Survey of Primary Care Physicians' Practices Regarding Prostate Cancer Screening collected information on physicians' attitudes, beliefs, and practices related to prostate cancer and screening (n=1,256). Two factors were constructed that measured belief in certainty of evidence for PSA testing and belief in screening efficacy. These factors, along with PCP sociodemographic and practice-related factors, were used to examine associations with offering the PSA test.


Most PCPs were male (70%), Caucasian (76%), under age 50 (56%), and practiced in communities with more than 50,000 residents (54%). In bivariate analysis, variables associated with PCP belief in evidence uncertainty included female gender, younger age, and lower patient volume. Variables associated with belief in screening efficacy included older age and general and family practice specialty. After adjustment, PCPs with high belief in evidence uncertainty were less likely (OR=0.19, 95% CI=0.06, 0.62) to offer PSA and more likely to practice shared decision making (OR=1.80, 95% CI=1.22-2.67). PCPs with high belief in screening efficacy were more likely (OR=2.99, 95% CI=1.15, 7.77) to offer PSA and less likely to practice shared decision making (OR=0.47, 95% CI=0.32-0.70).


Our data indicate that belief patterns about evidence uncertainty and the efficacy of using PSA may play a role in whether PCPs offer PSA.


Primary care; Prostate cancer; Prostate-specific antigen; Screening


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