Why Patients Need a Greater Role in Treatment Decisions

A study by the Cancer Support Community examined the factors that are most influential when patients choose a particular treatment option.
PUBLISHED December 10, 2015

Data released by the Cancer Support Community (CSC) at the World Congress on Psycho-Oncology Society examined the factors that are most influential when choosing a particular treatment option, and 87% of patients surveyed indicated that when it came to the factors that influenced their decisions, 72% said "physician recommendation."

"While we fully support the important relationship between the patient and the healthcare team, this is a finding that underscores the critical fact that patients must take an active role during the decision making process instead of relying solely on physician opinion to drive decisions about care," said Kim Thiboldeaux, CEO of the Cancer Support Community.

"The cancer care environment today is one of increasing complexity, increasing options, and decreasing time with the healthcare team. These factors make it even more important for patients to work with their healthcare team to reach a treatment decision that best meets the goals of therapy most important to the patient."

The survey was administered to 1816 attendees at seven nationally-run educational workshops hosted by the Cancer Support Community in 2013. Participants were allowed to choose multiple factors.

Despite frequently quoted opinions that patients' interest in aggressive therapy is driving treatment decisions and potential healthcare costs, this study suggests that patients are placing significantly more trust in physician opinion than other factors.

For example, only 33% of respondents made treatment decisions based on "the greatest chance for survival," and 33% on "the most aggressive treatment." Ten percent cited "side effects," and 8% said "insurance/financial reasons."

"One of the goals of the Cancer Support Community's work is to empower patients during the treatment decision making process," said Gwen Darien, executive vice president of programs and services at the Cancer Support Community. "Previous work in shared decision making demonstrated increased satisfaction and decreased decisional regret when a comprehensive conversation and plan are a part of the process."

Patients should work with their healthcare teams to employ tactics of shared decision-making, comprehensive care planning and distress screening in order to identify the unique goals of therapy and reach a plan that is best for the patient.

The full study abstract and poster can be viewed here.

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