Objective: To assess the effects of different approaches to decision-making on the treatment chosen for prostate cancer and on the patients' quality of life in prostate cancer.
Patients and methods: A multicentre randomized trial was conducted, including all histologically confirmed cases of prostate cancer diagnosed between September 1993 and November 1994 in four Finnish hospitals. In the intervention group, the role of the patient in the choice of treatment was actively emphasized. In the control group, the treatment was chosen using standardized treatment protocols. The first intermediate endpoint was the patient's participation in decision-making and the next will be the treatment chosen in the intervention and control groups. The main outcome will be the quality of life. Clinical data on prognostic factors including age, tumour grade, stage, functional status and serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) concentration was collected for comparison between the arms, and between those enrolled or not.
Results: In all, 210 of 251 eligible patients were randomized into the two arms. Patients were randomized before obtaining informed consent, which led to four patients already randomized refusing to participate. The 41 patients not enrolled were of similar age and grade distribution, but more frequently had extensive disease than had those enrolled in the trial. Three patients were unable to participate because of rapid deterioration in their general condition after randomization. There were no clear differences in baseline characteristics (including age, functional status, tumour grade and stage) of the patients between the arms. The distribution of PSA level differed slightly between the arms, which may require adjustment in the analyses. Patients in the intervention arm participated in decision-making more actively than those in the control arm.
Conclusion: Randomized studies on ethical issues such as the patient's role in choosing treatment are feasible and likely to provide important information.