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Communicating Risks of Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: Getting Beyond the Laundry List.

  • Author(s): Brauer, Eden R
  • Long, Elisa F
  • Melnikow, Joy
  • Ravdin, Peter M
  • Ganz, Patricia A
  • et al.
Abstract

PURPOSE::According to the Institute of Medicine, high-quality cancer care should include effective communication between clinicians and patients about the risks and benefits, expected response, and impact on quality of life of a recommended therapy. In the delivery of oncology care, the barriers to and facilitators of communication about potential long-term and late effects, post-treatment expectations, and transition to survivorship care have not been fully defined. PATIENTS AND METHODS::We collected qualitative data through semistructured interviews with medical oncologists and focus groups with breast cancer survivors and applied the Theoretical Domains Framework to systematically analyze and identify the factors that may influence oncologists' communication with patients with breast cancer about the long-term and late effects of adjuvant therapy. RESULTS::Eight key informant interviews with medical oncologists and two focus groups with breast cancer survivors provided data. Both oncologists and patients perceived information on long-term effects as valuable in terms of improved clinical communication but had concerns about the feasibility of inclusion before treatment. They described the current approaches to communication of therapy risks as a brief laundry list that emphasized acute adverse effects and minimized more long-term issues. We describe the barriers to communication about potential long-term effects from the perspectives of both groups. CONCLUSION::This study provides insight into oncologists' communication with patients with breast cancer regarding the potential long-term and late effects of adjuvant chemotherapy and about setting realistic expectations for life after treatment. Opportunities to improve oncologists' communication about the potential toxicities of therapy, particularly regarding long-term and late effects, should be examined further.

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