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Survey Shows Patient/Physician Communication Gaps

Survey Shows Patient/Physician Communication Gaps

ATLANTA—Many urologists treating men with prostate cancer are unaware that their patients are experiencing such disturbing treatment side effects as hot flashes, altered bowel habits, or weight change, according to the results of a national survey announced at the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA).

While 24% of patients surveyed said they had experienced hot flashes, for example, only 16% of urologists said that their patients had this difficulty during treatment.

When it comes to less common, but at times psychologically devastating, side effects, the disconnect between patients and physicians is even greater: For example, patients reported gynecomastia and loss of muscle strength three times more often than their doctors.

Joe Torre“Fighting prostate cancer is tough, and a key to winning the treatment battle is communication between patient and doctor,” said New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, a prostate cancer survivor who served as an advisor to the survey. “Patients need to tell doctors about treatment issues, and doctors should cover the full range of side effects so that no one is surprised.”

To help close these gaps in physician-patient communication, a program called “Managing Success: Rethinking Prostate Cancer Care and Survival” is in development and will be launched this fall.

An alliance of prominent urologists and oncologists, US TOO International (a prostate cancer advocacy and support organization), the American Foundation of Urologic Disease, and Mr. Torre, will shape the program, which is being supported by Amgen and Praecis Pharmaceuticals.

The survey, conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide in March and April, consisted of in-depth telephone interviews with a random cross-section of 302 urologists and 307 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer in the last 2 years.

Even though prostate cancer and the side effects of treatment can take an enormous psychological toll on patients, almost 40% of urologists surveyed said they never discuss emotional effects of treatment with patients. Doctors who do report discussing emotional issues may not be getting through to patients. While 43% of urologists said they discuss anxiety with their patients and 36% said they discuss depression, only about one fourth of patients said their doctors talked to them about these issues.

Overestimating Internet Use

Although almost 90% of the doctors surveyed said they believe their patients are getting information from the Internet, only 19% of the prostate cancer patients said they are going online for more information about their disease.

The survey also showed that patients are not taking advantage of prostate cancer support groups. Nearly 40% of the urologists said they encourage patients to attend support groups, but only 12% of patients said they attend.

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