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Warning over prostate test distress

Researchers from the University of Bristol are urging doctors to warn men that prostate cancer tests can lead to unnecessary psychological distress.

The test is not routinely offered in the UK - although men over 45 may request one - and a biopsy is carried out if a man has high levels of the protein prostate specific antigen (PSA).

A study for the British Journal of Cancer showed 20% of men found this to be a distressing process, and these feelings continued after a negative result for some.

Up to 70% of men receive a negative biopsy result after having raised levels of PSA, and researchers are calling for the psychological impact of testing to be clearly explained during the process.

Professor Kavita Vedhara said: "We found that in some men, the psychological effects lasted even after they were told their biopsy was benign."

A major study last year suggested routine screening could cut death rates by 20%, prompting a review of the current NHS policy of testing on request.

A final decision will be taken this year, but many experts have expressed doubts about the long-term benefits of screening.

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British Journal of Cancer