Does the material address both the risks and benefits of the recommended behaviors?

Recognize that non-expert audiences may perceive risks and benefits differently than public health or clinical professionals or statisticians. To make informed decisions, people need to understand the risks (perceived and actual) and benefits (perceived and actual) of behaviors, treatments, and preventive measures.

Example 1:

The following message addresses both perceived benefits and actual risks.

You may feel like smoking helps you relax and reduces stress. But smoking hurts you and the people in your life. In fact, smoking harms nearly every organ in your body.

Example 2:

Should I Get Screened?

CDC and other federal agencies follow the prostate cancer screening recommendations set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommends against PSA-based screening for men who do not have symptoms. Other organizations, like the American Urological Association, the American Cancer Society,External and the American College of PhysiciansExternal may have other recommendations. Talk to your doctor.

Informed Decision Making

Understanding that men and their doctors may continue to screen for prostate cancer, CDC continues to support informed decision making. Informed decision making occurs when a man—

  • Understands the nature and risk of prostate cancer.
  • Understands the risks of, benefits of, and alternatives to screening.
  • Participates in the decision to be screened or not at a level he desires.
  • Makes a decision consistent with his preferences and values.

We need better ways to screen for and treat prostate cancer. Until we make these discoveries, and even when we do, men and their families will turn to trusted health care professionals to help them make informed decisions. CDC encourages all doctors to have open conversations with their patients who have questions about prostate cancer and PSA screening.

Page last reviewed: September 2, 2015