Systematic evaluation of written health information on PSA based screening in Germany.
BACKGROUND:Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) based screening for early detection of prostate cancer is common although it is associated with both benefits and potential harms (e.g., the risk of overdiagnosis). Evidence-based health information could help individuals make informed decisions about whether to undergo PSA testing or not. This evaluation aimed to determine whether the written health information materials available in Germany provide appropriate information for informed decision-making on PSA based screening. METHODS:A list of criteria was developed and used to systematically assess the quality of information on the benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening included in written health information materials. Fourteen information materials identified by information requests and online searches were evaluated independently by two of three reviewers. Consensus was achieved with a third reviewer. RESULTS:Of the 14 information materials evaluated, 10 (71%) list the ability to reduce the absolute risk of death from prostate cancer as a benefit of PSA testing, 9 (64%) point out the risks of follow-up diagnostics, 13 (93%) describe the risks of the available prostate cancer treatments, and all 14 specify the risk of overdiagnosis. The minority provide numerical data on benefits and risks. Partially mismatched framing was identified in four cases: two information materials report only the relative frequencies of benefits, and two report only the absolute frequencies of harms. Half of the materials encouraged participation using downplaying or frightening language. CONCLUSIONS:The majority of health information materials in Germany describe the benefits and harms of PSA based screening, including overdiagnosis, but often lack adequate balance, neutrality and numbers.