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Cancer. 2002 Apr 1;94(7):2076-80.

Treatment decisions for breast carcinoma: patient preferences and physician perceptions.

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Department of Palliative and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Patient autonomy and participation in treatment decision making have been encouraged in recent years. However, patients and physicians frequently disagree with regard to the patient's needs and perceptions of their illness. To the authors' knowledge to date only limited research has assessed physicians' perceptions of patients' decision-making preferences. The purpose of the current prospective study was to determine the agreement between patient decision-making preferences and physician perceptions of those preferences.


Women with breast carcinoma who were attending their first outpatient consultation with a breast medical oncologist in a university cancer center were enrolled in the current study. At the end of the consultation, the patients were given a survey regarding their treatment decision-making preferences that included active, shared, and passive roles in decision-making and the patients' attending physicians also were given a survey regarding their perceptions of the patients' decision-making preferences.


Fifty-seven patients had complete data and were analyzed. Approximately 89% of these 57 patients preferred either an active or a shared role in decision making. The agreement between patients and physicians with regard to decision-making preference only occurred in 24 cases (42%). The majority of covariates such as age, education, and income were not found to be statistically significant with regard to patient preferences or to the proportion of patients and physicians who agreed on the patient's preferences.


Women with breast carcinoma appear to have a strong desire for involvement in making decisions regarding their treatment. However, physicians do not appear to be consistently able to predict the decision-making preferences of their patients. Enhanced agreement between patient preferences and physician expectations mostly likely will improve communication and patient satisfaction with the treatment decision-making process.

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