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Doctors Leave out Information during Cancer Screening Sessions

Update Date: Jun 13, 2014 02:29 PM EDT

A good rapport between doctors and patients can improve patient care and satisfaction. Even though studies have found that patients might not share every medical detail with their doctors, a new survey found that doctors are also guilty of withholding information. According to this survey, physicians do not always discuss all of the risks and benefits involved with cancer screenings.

In this study, the researchers examined data on more than 1100 participants who were aged 50 and older. The participants were considering whether or not to get screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer or prostate cancer within the past two years. The researchers interviewed them regarding their discussions with their primary care physicians. The researchers were most interested in finding out whether or not doctors shared pros and cons of cancer screening with their patients.

Overall, shared decision making between the doctor and patient influenced 27 percent of female patients to get breast cancer screening, 38 percent of patients to undergo colorectal screening and 34 percent of male patients to have prostate cancer screening. The participants reported that their doctors were more likely to discuss the pros of a particular screening method instead of the cons. Doctors were 51 to 67 percent more likely to talk about the pros. The rate for discussing cons ranged from seven to 14 percent.

"We were expecting that decision making quality would be better for younger women and it wasn't," said Richard M. Hoffman, MD, MPH, professor of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque and lead author on the study. "Overall, we didn't see that much shared decision making."

The researchers found that the type of cancer and the gender of the patients affected how often a physician discusses screening methods. Doctors were 71 percent more likely to ask men than women if they wanted colorectal cancer screening and 70 percent more likely to ask men if they wanted prostate cancer screening. For female patients, the rates for breast cancer and colorectal cancer screening were 43 percent and 57 percent respectively.

"The methodology [the authors] used and their interpretation of data is correct," commented Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer with the American Cancer Society in Atlanta according to Medical Xpress. "Medicine will have to grapple with what kinds of physician advice should be moved into shared decision making as opposed to traditional recommendations to have it done. Shared decision making is difficult to do. Tools and guidance about how to do it are not as easily available as they should be."

The study, "Lack of shared decision making in cancer screening discussions: Results from a national survey," was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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