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Soc Sci Med. 1999 Aug;49(4):449-57.

Patient assertiveness and physician decision-making among older breast cancer patients.

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The School of Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston, USA.


The objective of this study was to determine whether assertive patient behavior influences physician decision-making in the treatment of older breast cancer patients. One hundred and twenty-eight physicians saw videotapes depicting women seeking care for breast cancer and then recommended evaluation and treatment plans. Identical scripts were used, but the age, race, socioeconomic status, mobility, general health, and assertive behavior of the patients were experimentally varied along with the physician's specialty and length of practice. No direct effects of assertive patient behavior were seen. However, black, comorbid, and lower SES women were more likely to have full staging of their tumors ordered when they made an assertive request. Treatment recommendations also showed an interaction of assertiveness with patient's age and social class as well as physicians' specialty. The results indicate that a moderately assertive patient request may change provider behavior, although the effects of assertiveness vary most by what type of patient demonstrates this behavior. In particular, assertiveness led to more careful diagnostic testing for patients who came from groups that are "disadvantaged."

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