Breast Cancer Patients and Oncologists Highly Satisfied with Communication, Yet Disagree on Conversation Priorities

Monday, December 17, 2007 General News
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SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 16 Seventy-two percent ofbreast cancer patients and nearly 60 percent of oncologists report overallsatisfaction with the quality of their communication, yet there is a wide gapbetween what doctors and patients think is important to discuss, according toa new survey commissioned by Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization(TM)(Y-ME). The survey findings were presented today at the 30th Annual SanAntonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

Surveyed patients and oncologists had very different perspectives on whichaspects of care should be the focus of their conversations, such as prognosisand issues relating to treatment (long-term effects, risks and benefits, andside effects). Whereas patients placed the greatest priority on theirprognosis (47 percent), oncologists focused most on side effects (59 percent)-- a topic that only 34 percent of patients considered essential. Fifty-sevenpercent of doctors, compared with 42 percent of patients, said that the risksand benefits of treatment were among the most important discussion topics.And, nearly 40 percent of patients considered the long-term effects oftreatment to be a very important discussion topic; however, only nine percentof oncologists agreed.

Interestingly, patients were more inclined than oncologists to report thattheir most important discussion with their oncologist was very successful (80percent compared with 67 percent).

"We were very encouraged to learn that breast cancer patients andoncologists are generally pleased with their communication," says Margaret C.Kirk, CEO of Y-ME. "But since the survey shows that they have differentpriorities and levels of satisfaction, there's definitely room forimprovement."

"This survey reinforces the need for patients and oncologists to recognizetheir different perspectives and define the goals of each interaction," saysMargaret Kirk. "Mutual understanding of these goals is an important steptoward improved communication, quality of care and, ultimately, patientoutcomes."

Survey Background, Method and Design

The purpose of this survey was to better understand barriers to effectivedoctor-patient relationships and to develop best practice standards for theirinteractions. Y-ME commissioned The Segmentation Company, a division ofYankelovich, to conduct this research.

Online interviews were conducted among 504 breast cancer patients and 150oncologists. Patients were defined as women over 18 who are currently beingtreated for breast cancer. Only oncologists seeing at least 10 breast cancerpatients per week and having been in practice for at least three years wereincluded in the study. Interviews were conducted online from May 3 through May16, 2007. The patient sample was weighted to reflect the occurrence of breastcancer in certain demographic groups as reported by the National Center forHealth Statistics, "Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National HealthInterview Survey, 2005."

The majority of surveyed patients was Caucasian, between 48 and 64 yearsof age, and had stage I or II breast cancer. Patients were evenly distributedamong education and income levels. The majority of oncologists were male (81percent), older than 40 years of age and worked in a single specialty practiceor partnership.

This survey was made possible with support from Roche.

About Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization

Y-ME's mission is to ensure, through information, empowerment and peersupport, that no one faces breast cancer alone. Y-ME does not raise money forresearch but is here today for those who can't wait for tomorrow's cure.

Y-ME has the only 24-hour hotline staffed entirely by trained breastcancer survivors. The pink ribbon logo is inverted because it forms the "Y" inY-ME. Also, we are "where to turn when your world turns upside down" by abreast cancer diagnosis.

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