Medical tests: women's reported and preferred decision-making roles and preferences for information on benefits, side-effects and false results

Health Expect. 2002 Dec;5(4):330-40. doi: 10.1046/j.1369-6513.2002.00194.x.


Objective: To determine women's preferences for and reported experience with medical test decision-making.

Design: Computer-assisted telephone survey.

Setting and participants: Six hundred and fifty-two women resident in households randomly selected from the New South Wales electronic white pages.

Main outcome measures: Reported and preferred test and treatment (for comparison) decision-making, satisfaction with and anxiety about information on false results and side-effects; and effect of anxiety on desire for such information.

Results: Overall most women preferred to share test (94.6%) and treatment (91.2%) decision-making equally with their doctor, or to take a more active role, with only 5.4-8.9% reporting they wanted the doctor to make these decisions on their behalf. This pattern was consistent across all age groups. In general, women reported experiencing a decision-making role that was consistent with their preference. Women who had a usual doctor were more likely to report experiencing an active role in decision-making. More women reported receiving as much information as they wanted about the benefits of tests and treatment than about the side-effects of tests and treatment. Most women wanted information about the possibility of false test results (91.5%) and test side-effects (95.6%), but many reported the doctor never provided this information (false results = 40.0% and side-effects = 31.3%). A substantial proportion said this information would make them anxious (false results = 56.6% and side-effects = 43.1%), but reported they wanted the information anyway (false results = 77.6% and side-effects = 88.1%).

Conclusions: Women prefer an active role in test and treatment decision-making. Many women reported receiving inadequate information. If so, this may jeopardize informed decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Decision Making*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Information Services
  • Informed Consent*
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • New South Wales
  • Patient Participation*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Random Allocation