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Approaches to decision-making among late-stage melanoma patients: a multifactorial investigation



The treatment decisions of melanoma patients are poorly understood. Most research on cancer patient decision-making focuses on limited components of specific treatment decisions. This study aimed to holistically characterize late-stage melanoma patients' approaches to treatment decision-making in order to advance understanding of patient influences and supports.


(1) Exploratory analysis of longitudinal qualitative data to identify themes that characterize patient decision-making. (2) Pattern analysis of decision-making themes using an innovative method for visualizing qualitative data: a hierarchically-clustered heatmap. Participants were 13 advanced melanoma patients at a large academic medical center.


Exploratory analysis revealed eight themes. Heatmap analysis indicated two broad types of patient decision-makers. "Reliant outsiders" relied on providers for medical information, demonstrated low involvement in decision-making, showed a low or later-in-care interest in clinical trials, and expressed altruistic motives. "Active insiders" accessed substantial medical information and expertise in their networks, consulted with other doctors, showed early and substantial interest in trials, demonstrated high involvement in decision-making, and employed multiple decision-making strategies.


We identified and characterized two distinct approaches to decision-making among patients with late-stage melanoma. These differences spanned a wide range of factors (e.g., behaviors, resources, motivations). Enhanced understanding of patients as decision-makers and the factors that shape their decision-making may help providers to better support patient understanding, improve patient-provider communication, and support shared decision-making.

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