Emotional impact of screening

A: While carrying out screening tests is a routine task for GPs, the results have potentially serious implications for patients. Researchers in London have therefore reviewed studies that examined the emotional impact of screening.

They searched the literature for trials in which patients were randomised to have screening or not. There were 12 studies suitable for the review. Half of the studies involved screening for cancer.

The studies involved 170,045 people. The average ages of these participants ranged from 41 to 69 years.

None of the trials assessed short-term distress. In the longer term, one study found that screening did not cause general distress.

A single study evaluated short-term anxiety. There was no increase in anxiety irrespective of the results of the tests.

There was also no increase in anxiety in the five trials that studied the longer term effects of screening.
Short-term depression was only assessed