Deciding about (neo-)adjuvant rectal and breast cancer treatment: Missed opportunities for shared decision making

Acta Oncol. 2016;55(2):134-9. doi: 10.3109/0284186X.2015.1068447. Epub 2015 Aug 3.


Background: The first step in shared decision making (SDM) is creating choice awareness. This is particularly relevant in consultations concerning preference-sensitive treatment decisions, e.g. those addressing (neo-)adjuvant therapy. Awareness can be achieved by explicitly stating, as the 'reason for encounter', that a treatment decision needs to be made. It is unknown whether oncologists express such reason for encounter. This study aims to establish: 1) if 'making a treatment decision' is stated as a reason for the encounter and if not, what other reason for encounter is provided; and 2) whether mentioning that a treatment decision needs to be made is associated with enhanced patient involvement in decision making.

Material and methods: Consecutive first consultations with: 1) radiation oncologists and rectal cancer patients; or 2) medical oncologists and breast cancer patients, facing a preference-sensitive treatment decision, were audiotaped. The tapes were transcribed and coded using an instrument developed for the study. Oncologists' involvement of patients in decision making was coded using the OPTION-scale.

Results: Oncologists (N = 33) gave a reason for encounter in 70/100 consultations, usually (N = 52/70, 74%) at the start of the consultation. The reason for encounter stated was 'making a treatment decision' in 3/100 consultations, and 'explaining treatment details' in 44/100 consultations. The option of foregoing adjuvant treatment was not explicitly presented in any consultation. Oncologist' involvement of patients in decision making was below baseline (Md OPTION-score = 10). Given the small number of consultations in which the need to make a treatment decision was stated, we could not investigate the impact thereof on patient involvement.

Conclusion: This study suggests that oncologists rarely express that a treatment decision needs to be made in consultations concerning preference-sensitive treatment decisions. Therefore, patients might not realize that foregoing (neo-)adjuvant treatment is a viable choice. Oncologists miss a crucial opportunity to facilitate SDM.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / psychology
  • Patient Participation*
  • Patient Preference
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians
  • Rectal Neoplasms / psychology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Referral and Consultation