Patients diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer not only have to cope with the impact of the cancer diagnosis, but also need to interpret complicated medical information to make an informed treatment decision. We report initial results from an ongoing longitudinal investigation examining treatment decision making among men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer. Men (N = 654) were recruited into the assessment study after an initial treatment consultation with a urologic surgeon or radiation oncologist. Patients were, on average, 66 years old, married (85%), had at least a high school education (45%), were retired (58%), and were Caucasian (91%) or African American (7%). Guided by a cognitive-affective theoretical framework, we assessed treatment and disease-relevant beliefs and affects in addition to clinical variables. The majority of patients decided on external beam radiation therapy (52%), followed by brachytherapy (25%), prostatectomy (17%), and watchful waiting (6%). Patients who decided on prostatectomy were significantly younger (mean age, 58 yr) than patients who received radiation therapy (mean age, 67 yr) and brachytherapy (mean age, 66 yr). When asked for the most important reason influencing their treatment decision, patients indicated physician recommendation (51%), advice from friends and family (19%), information obtained from books and journals (18%), or the Internet (7%). Among cognitive variables, patients who decided on surgery perceived prostate cancer as being significantly more serious (P <.001), and had greater difficulties in making a treatment decision (P <.005) compared with patients receiving radiation therapy or brachytherapy. Surgical patients were also more distressed about their treatment decision (P <.001) and concerned that the cancer might spread (P <.005). To date, patients followed-up after treatment have not indicated significant regrets about their therapeutic choice. These data suggest that unique treatment-related beliefs and affects need to be taken into account during the treatment counseling process. Implications for the development of decision aids are discussed.
Copyright 2002 by W.B. Saunders Company