The Informed Medical Decisions Foundation’s decision aid “Is a PSA Test Right for You?” takes a look at the same medical evidence that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently reviewed, and highlights what the evidence tells us about the PSA test’s benefits–which are uncertain or limited for many men–and the harms of treatment if a screening results in a prostate cancer diagnosis. “Men who understand the key facts about the decision and have an opportunity to talk with a doctor about their values, can then make informed choices that are aligned with their preferences,” says Diana Stilwell, Foundation chief production officer.
Decision aids are important tools in ensuring patients understand the medical choices they face. In early October, the Cochrane Collaborative released their review of 86 studies evaluating the effectiveness of decision aids for patients facing health treatment or screening decisions. The updated review found that after using decision aids, patients 1) improve their knowledge of their options, 2) have more accurate expectations of possible benefits and harms, 3) reach decisions that are more consistent with their informed value, and 4) participate more in decision making.
The review also found that decision aids have a variable effect on actual choices, but they reduce the choice of elective surgery when patients consider other options. Maybe most importantly, when patients use decision aids there appears to be a positive effect on communication with their health care provider. This report adds to the cause that decision aids are an important tool for assisting providers in informing patients, especially around such complex topic areas as prostate cancer screening.