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Experiences of Uncertainty in Men With an Elevated PSA

Caitlin Biddle, MA, Alicia Brasel, MPH, Willie Underwood, III, MS, MPH, MD, Heather Orom, PhD

First Published May 15, 2015


Abstract
A significant proportion of men, ages 50 to 70 years, have, and continue to receive prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests to screen for prostate cancer (PCa). Approximately 70% of men with an elevated PSA level will not subsequently be diagnosed with PCa. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 13 men with an elevated PSA level who had not been diagnosed with PCa. Uncertainty was prominent in men’s reactions to the PSA results, stemming from unanswered questions about the PSA test, PCa risk, and confusion about their management plan. Uncertainty was exacerbated or reduced depending on whether health care providers communicated in lay and empathetic ways, and provided opportunities for question asking. To manage uncertainty, men engaged in information and health care seeking, self-monitoring, and defensive cognition. Results inform strategies for meeting informational needs of men with an elevated PSA and confirm the primary importance of physician communication behavior for open information exchange and uncertainty reduction.

Keywords psychosocial aspect, cancer, screening and prevention, communication, medical, uncertainty

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