A recent study published in Cancer provides important insights into how family members and cancer patients make decisions together relative to treatment options. This information might help physicians understand patients’ preferences regarding their care, especially since family members play a crucial role in decision making, as they provide care for those suffering with the disease.
In this study, Gabriella Hobbs, Nancy Keating and colleagues from the Harvard Medical School assessed 5,284 patients who received a recent diagnosis of colon or lung cancer to understand how they involved family members in decisions concerning their care options and opportunities. Only 1.5 percent of the patients under evaluation reported decisions that were family-controlled, 49.4 percent said those decisions were shared with their families, 22.1 percent said they received some family input and 28.5 percent had little or no input at all from their family members.
Asian patients that did not speak English along with Hispanic patients were more likely to report equally shared decisions with their family members in comparison to other patients. In addition, female patients, older patients and married and insured patients were more likely to report shared decision-making in comparison to their counterparts. Veteran patients were the least likely to report shared decisions.
“Understanding how patients vary in their inclusion of family members in decisions–by ethnicity, language spoken, marital status, sex, age, insurance status, and veteran status–may help physicians to better assess their patients’ preferences for engaging family members in decisions. As we move to more patient-centered models of care, such assessments may help doctors personalize the care they offer their patients,” said Dr. Hobbs.
As therapies to treat cancer patients evolve, they also become more complex, making it more challenging for both patients and providers to choose the optimal type of treatment for each individual patient. “Our study suggests that not all patients wish to include family in the same way. By raising awareness of these preferences, we hope that physicians will be aware of these variations and elicit their patient’s preference on how they wish to include, or not to include, families in decision-making,” concluded the researcher.