Fear, anecdotal evidence influence patients' decisions about prostate cancer treatment

July 6, 2006

Prostate cancer patients make treatment decisions that are influenced by anecdote and misconception rather than clinical trial evidence, according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver.

Prostate cancer patients make treatment decisions that are influenced by anecdote and misconception rather than clinical trial evidence, according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver.

Researchers found that three factors characterized prostate cancer patients’ decisions about their treatment: fear and uncertainty, misconceptions about treatment efficacy and risks, and anecdotal information about other’s experiences with prostate cancer. The study, which will be published in the Aug. 1 issue of Cancer, concluded that this led men to make erroneous decisions about their own treatment because they failed to understand the particulars of their disease and treatment options.

Thomas Denberg, MD, PhD, and colleagues interviewed 20 men newly diagnosed with localized prostate cancer before and after treatment. They found that patients had poor recall of the information they were provided, often confused side effects and treatments, and often said that the side effects had no impact on their treatment decision. Sixteen of 20 men did not intend to seek a second opinion, generally because of misconceptions about its purpose.

"This study illustrates that while attention to health information, outcome preferences, and the framing of numerical risk is necessary, it is hardly sufficient for achieving quality in patient-centered decision-making," Dr. Denberg said.