NEW YORK-A new study by Louis Harris and Associates points to serious gaps between what doctors treating prostate cancer say they tell their patients and what prostate cancer patients report they have heard. A panel of experts at a press conference called to present the findings agreed that these communication gaps must be repaired if further progress is to be made in fighting what they called this "male epidemic."
With new and more effective treatment options available for even advanced disease, the panelists said, it is all the more important that patients be well informed and able to actively participate in decisions about their care.
The Harris survey was conducted on behalf of Us Too! International, a prostate cancer support group, and funded by Schering Oncology/Biotech. The survey questioned 1,000 prostate cancer patients, all members of Us Too!, and 200 urologists who treat prostate cancer. The focus was on attitudes, awareness, and relationships related to treatment of the disease.
Louis Harris' executive vice president, Robert Leitman, acknowledged that the patients surveyed were, by virtue of membership in a support group, more active and informed than a more general patient population. Nonetheless, he reported a worrying disparity in answers given by physicians and patients in areas ranging from patient priorities to information about the efficacy, costs, and side effects of available treatment options.
Among the survey findings:
- Of the doctors polled, 96% believe that most patients feel sufficiently informed to make treatment decisions, whereas only 82% of the responding patients said they felt sufficiently informed, and only 63% said they were very satisfied with the discussion they had about treatment options.
- Of the surveyed physicians, 99% reported discussing treatment options, whereas 15% of patients said their doctors had not done so.
- Perhaps most dramatically, 100% of the surveyed physicians said they discussed the side effects of various treatments and how treatments might affect the patient's quality of life, and asked patients their preference for treatment, but only 84% of patients reported being told about side effects, and 70% about quality of life issues; 80% said they were asked about their treatment preference.
Perceptions of patient priorities also varied widely between patients and physicians. For patients, the most important consideration was preserving quality of life, with survival a close second, whereas the doctors believed that in the early stages of the disease, patients' primary concerns are survival and cure, and in the most advanced stages, they are more concerned with survival and quality of life.