Researchers from the University of Michigan and Duke University seem to have found a preferable approach to discussing treatment options with cancer patients.
According to their findings, when deciding between treatment options, patients are more sensitive to the degree of risk reduction when making simpler decisions in a series, versus learning all of the information about different treatment methods at once and then making a final decision.
The study was conducted as an experimental survey administered over the Internet. It followed 1,781 demographically diverse women 40-74 years old through a hypothetical decision process for a breast cancer patient with a tumor. While some of the participants were presented with information about treatment options all at once, the rest were given decisions and information sequentially.
The women who participated in the step-by-step method were more likely to select the adjuvant therapy option that statistically had the best outcome of preventing cancer recurrence. The researchers suspect that these decisions, which are initially difficult because of patients' sensitivities during this challenging time, are complicated by terminology and statistics that overwhelm patients when doctors present information about different treatments simultaneously.
Researchers argue that these findings should not increase the length of time in a doctor's office, but should actually shorten visits because patients will absorb the information more effectively and efficiently, and doctors will not need to repeat themselves as often.