Oncologist-patient Discussion of Adjuvant Hormonal Therapy in Breast Cancer: Results of a Linguistic Study Focusing on Adherence and Persistence to Therapy

J Support Oncol. 2007 Mar;5(3):139-43.


Although studies have proven the benefit of 5+ years of adjuvant hormonal therapy (AHT) for breast cancer, data show adherence and persistence with therapy are suboptimal. This observational linguistic study analyzed communication between breast cancer patients and their oncologists to determine how adherence was addressed and to identify areas where communication could be improved. Community-based oncologists were recruited by letter to participate. Researchers visited oncologists (n = 14) to record patient-oncologist interactions and conduct separate post-visit interviews. Comprehensive linguistic analyses of visits between 28 postmenopausal, early-stage breast cancer patients on or initiating hormonal therapy and their oncologists were conducted to determine the nature of discussions of adherence and persistence to therapy. Oncologist-patient discussions about AHT were generally good but did not address potential difficulties of remaining adherent with long-term therapy. Discussions of persistence were usually monologues addressing the current state of "study data" and were not linked to the patient, the importance of persistence, or how the study data related to her situation. Because the patient's cancer was framed as being "in the past," discussions resembled those of chronic management in preventive medicine. This more ad-hoc approach to adherence and persistence is a potential stumbling block for motivating patients to stay on hormonal therapy. Additionally, the oncologists participating in this study recognized that adherence to therapy is a problem but did not feel "their patients" fell into this pattern. In this office-based evaluation, minimal nurse interactions were observed, which increases the importance of oncologist-patient communication. The authors recommend that oncologists leverage the existing good communication with their patients by increasing the amount and quality of discussions around the importance of adherence and persistence to AHT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Language*
  • Linguistics*
  • Medical Oncology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Postmenopause
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal