Objectives: The objectives of this study were to determine whether tamoxifen recommendation differs by physician specialty, to determine whether perception affects tamoxifen recommendation, and to investigate the association between the physician's specialty and the perception of risks and benefits of tamoxifen.
Methods: We enrolled a cohort of geographically diverse women aged 65 and older with stage I through IIIa breast cancer in a prospective cohort study. We recruited their surgeons and, when applicable, their medical oncologists to provide patient-specific information about their perceptions of the risks and benefits of tamoxifen and whether they recommended tamoxifen. Each physician also completed a questionnaire regarding his or her demographic and practice characteristics. Patient data were collected through medical record review and a patient interview 3 months after definitive breast cancer surgery.
Results: We collected physician treatment recommendation forms for 585 women. Oncologists were 2.5 times more likely to recommend tamoxifen, compared with surgeons, after adjusting for patient and tumor characteristics (95% confidence interval, 1.5-4.2). For both specialties, their perceptions of the risks and benefits of tamoxifen were strong predictors of tamoxifen recommendation. However, there were differences in perception by physician specialty. Distant metastases and tolerance of tamoxifen side effects were more important to oncologists, whereas local recurrence and risk of cataracts were more important to surgeons.
Conclusion: Physicians' perceptions of the risks and benefits of tamoxifen therapy for older women are important in their decision-making process.