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Web Tool Aids Men in Prostate Decisions

Tuesday, February 26, 2008; 12:00 AM (Washington Post)

TUESDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Men considering prostate cancer screening who used an interactive Web-based, decision-making tool knew more about the disease and were less likely to choose screening than men who got information from credible Web sites, a U.S. study concludes.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at 611 men, all older than 50, who were randomly assigned to different prostate screening decision support approaches, including a Web-based decision aid that explained the nature, detection and treatment of prostate cancer. The tool included video clips of doctors and patients expressing different opinions about prostate cancer screening.

Other men were told to get information about prostate cancer screening at the Web sites of the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Men who used the decision aid were less likely to seek other sources of information afterward. This suggests they were more satisfied with the information they received and more confident about their decisions based on that information, said study author Dominick L. Frosch, an assistant professor of medicine.

The study was published in the Feb. 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"There are real pros and cons to getting a prostate cancer screening test, and there's no right or wrong answer. What's important is for men to get the information they need and to feel confident that they've made a decision that's right for them," Frosch said in a prepared statement.

If they fully understand the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening, some men might decide to forego the screening, said Frosch, who added that the findings lend support to the use of decision aids in clinical practice.

Prostate cancer screening is a complicated issue, according to background information in a news release on the study. Screening men with prostate cancer symptoms has been shown to increase the number of men who are treated for prostate cancer, but it hasn't been proven that screening helps lengthen survival time. In addition, men who have prostate cancer surgery are at significant risk for impotence and incontinence.

In most cases, men diagnosed with prostate cancer are older, and the disease progresses slowly. Research suggests that up to 50 percent of men die with prostate cancer, but only 3 percent actually die of the disease.

SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, Feb. 25, 2008