Background: Multiple therapeutic options exist for localized prostate carcinoma, without conclusive evidence to guide the choice of treatment. Thus, treatment should reflect trade-offs between the probability of curing disease and the desire to avoid treatment-associated side effects. Factors that actually influence patient treatment preferences are poorly understood.
Methods: We reviewed medical records and carried out in-depth, semistructured interviews of 20 men with newly-diagnosed, clinically-localized prostate carcinoma in a Veterans Affairs Hospital following their first consultations with urologists and before treatments were initiated. Six to eight months after treatment, we carried out follow-up interviews. Interviews explored beliefs and attitudes about prostate cancer and treatment options, emotional reactions to the diagnosis, treatment preferences, information sources, and perceptions of interactions with urologists.
Results: Patient treatment preferences were not based on careful assessments of numerical risks for various clinical outcomes. Instead, feelings of fear and uncertainty contributed to a desire for rapid treatment, and specific preferences were profoundly influenced by misconceptions, especially about prostatectomy, and by anecdotes about the experiences of others with cancer. Few patients wanted to seek second opinions. Most patients received treatments that matched their initial preferences. Afterwards, they justified their choices in terms of the same misconceptions and anecdotal influences invoked during treatment deliberation.
Conclusions: For men with localized prostate carcinoma, the treatment decision-making process would benefit from interventions that moderate feelings of fear and a desire for rapid treatment, dispel common and powerful misconceptions about prostate cancer and its therapies, and help patients avoid over-reliance on anecdotes.
Copyright 2006 American Cancer Society.