Communication matters: the impact of communication and participation in decision making on breast cancer patients' depression and quality of life

Patient Educ Couns. 2009 Dec;77(3):391-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.09.005. Epub 2009 Oct 1.


Objective: This study explored the impact of breast cancer patients' experiences of physician-patient communication and participation in decision making on patient depression and quality of life three and six months after primary treatment.

Methods: Participants were 135 German breast cancer patients, recruited within a week after the beginning of treatment. Women were asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire at baseline and three and six months later.

Results: Patients who rated their level of information at baseline as high were less depressed after three (p=.010) and six months (p<.001) and experienced higher quality of life after three (p<.001) and six months (p=.049). Patients who participated as much as they had wanted were more satisfied with the decision making process (p<.001) and had lower depression scores three months later (p=.005). The level of participation itself (passive, collaborative, active) and the treatment type had no impact.

Conclusion: The findings reveal the significance of physician-patient communication and stress the meaning of baseline depression for later adjustment.

Practice implications: A high level of information and tailoring the involvement in decision making to patients' desired level can help patients to better cope with their illness. Physicians should assess and treat depression early in cancer treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Communication*
  • Decision Making*
  • Depression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult