Twitter Response to the United States Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations against Screening with Prostate Specific Antigen

Prabhu, V., T. Lee, S. Loeb, J.H. Holmes, H.T. Gold, H. Lepor, D.F. Penson, and D.V. Makarov
BJU International. DOI: 10.1111/bju.12748

Objective: To examine public and media response to the United States Preventive Services Task Force's (USPSTF) draft (October 2011) and finalized (May 2012) recommendations against prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing using Twitter, a popular social network with over 200 million active users.

Materials and Methods: We used a mixed methods design to analyze posts on Twitter, called “tweets.” Using the search term “prostate cancer,” we archived tweets in the 24 hour periods following the release of the USPSTF draft and finalized recommendations. We recorded tweet rate per hour and developed a coding system to assess type of user and sentiment expressed in tweets and linked articles.

Results: After the draft and finalized recommendations, 2042 and 5357 tweets focused on the USPSTF report, respectively. Tweet rate nearly doubled within two hours of both announcements. Fewer than 10% of tweets expressed an opinion about screening, and the majority of these were pro-screening during both periods. In contrast, anti-screening articles were tweeted more frequently in both draft and finalized study periods. From the draft to the finalized recommendations, the proportion of anti-screening tweets and anti-screening article links increased (p= 0.03 and p<0.01, respectively).

Conclusions: There was increased Twitter activity surrounding the USPSTF draft and finalized recommendations. The percentage of anti-screening tweets and articles appeared to increase, perhaps due to the interval public comment period. Despite this, most tweets did not express an opinion, suggesting a missed opportunity in this important arena for advocacy.

Wagner Faculty