Prostate cancer screening among family physicians in Ontario: An update on attitudes and current practice

Jason Paul Akerman, Christopher B. Allard, Camilla Tajzler, Anil Kapoor


Introduction: This study serves as an update of prostate cancer screening practices among family physicians in Ontario, Canada. Since this population was first surveyed in 2010, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released recommendations against prostate cancer screening.

Methods: An online survey was developed through input from urologists and family practitioners. It was distributed via email to all members of the Ontario Medical Association’s Section on General and Family practice (11 657 family physicians). A reminder email was sent at two weeks and the survey remained active for one month.

Results: A total of 1880 family physicians completed surveys (response rate 16.1%). Overall, 80.4% offered prostate cancer screening compared to 91.7% when surveyed in 2010. Physicians new to practice (two years or less) were the most likely to not offer screening (24.6%). A combination of digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) remained the most common form of screening (58.3%). Following the release of the CTFPHC recommendations, 45.6% of respondents said they now screen fewer patients. Participants were less familiar with national urological society guidelines compared to task force recommendations. The majority (72.6%) of respondents feel PSA screening leads to overdiagnosis and treatment. Those surveyed remained split with respect to PSA utility.

Conclusions: Data suggest a decline in screening practices since 2010, with newer graduates less likely to offer screening. CFTPHC and USPSTF recommendations had the greatest impact on clinical practice. Those surveyed were divided with respect to PSA utility. Some additional considerations to PSA screening in the primary care setting, including patient-driven factors, were not captured by our concise survey.

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