Cancer Patients' Roles in Treatment Decisions

Do Characteristics of the Decision Influence Roles?

Published in: Journal of Clinical Oncology, v. 28, no. 28, Oct. 1, 2010, p. 4364-4370

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Nancy L. Keating, Mary Beth Landrum, Neeraj K. Arora, Jennifer Malin, Patricia A. Ganz, Michelle van Ryn, Jane Weeks

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PURPOSE: Patients with more active roles in decisions are more satisfied and may have better health outcomes. Younger and better educated patients have more active roles in decisions, but whether patients' roles in decisions differ by characteristics of the decision itself is unknown. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We surveyed a large, population-based cohort of patients with recently diagnosed lung or colorectal cancer about their roles in decisions regarding surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. We used multinomial logistic regression to assess whether characteristics of the decision, including evidence about the treatment's benefit, whether the decision was likely preference-sensitive (palliative therapy for metastatic cancer), and treatment modality, influenced patients' roles in that decision. RESULTS: Of 10,939 decisions made by 5,383 patients, 38.9% were patient controlled, 43.6% were shared, and 17.5% were physician controlled. When there was good evidence to support a treatment, shared control was greatest; when evidence was uncertain, patient control was greatest; and when there was no evidence for or evidence against a treatment, physician control was greatest (overall P < .001). Decisions about treatments for metastatic cancers tended to be more physician controlled than other decisions (P < .001). CONCLUSION: Patients making decisions about treatments for which no evidence supports benefit and decisions about noncurative treatments reported more physician control, which suggests that patients may not want the responsibility of deciding on treatments that will not cure them. Better strategies for shared decision making may be needed when there is no evidence to support benefit of a treatment or when patients have terminal illnesses that cannot be cured.

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