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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998 Jun 17;90(12):925-31.

Short-term effects of population-based screening for prostate cancer on health-related quality of life.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. ESSINK@MGZ.FGG.EUR.NL



Population-based screening for prostate cancer is currently being evaluated in randomized clinical trials in the United States and in Europe. Side effects arising from the process of screening and from the earlier treatment of screen-detected prostate cancer may be important factors in the evaluation. To examine health-related quality of life (or health status) among men screened for prostate cancer, we conducted a longitudinal study of 626 attenders to the Rotterdam (The Netherlands) prostate cancer screening program and of 500 nonparticipants.


Attenders of the screening program and nonparticipants completed self-assessment questionnaires (SF-36 [i.e., Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey] and EQ-5D [i.e., EuroQol measure for health-related quality of life] health surveys) to measure generic health status, as well as an additional questionnaire for anxiety and items relating to prostate cancer screening.


Physical discomfort during digital rectal examination and during transrectal ultrasound was reported by 181 (37%) of 491 men and by 139 (29%) of 487 men, respectively; discomfort during prostate biopsy was reported by 64 (55%) of 116 men. Mean scores for health status and anxiety indicated that the participants did not experience relevant changes in physical, psychological, and social functioning during the screening procedure. However, high levels of anxiety were observed throughout the screening process among men with a high predisposition to anxiety. Similar scores for anxiety predisposition were observed among attenders and nonparticipants.


At the group level, we did not find evidence that prostate cancer screening induced important short-term health-status effects, despite the short-lasting side effects related to the biopsy procedure. However, subgroups may experience high levels of anxiety. The implication is that unfavorable health-status effects of prostate cancer screening occur mainly in the treatment phase.

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