A recent study found that specific factors impact family involvement in decisions regarding cancer patients’ treatment. The research, published in the Cancer journal, provides some insights that may help physicians understand patients’ preferences regarding their care.
Researchers Gabriella Hobbs, MD, and Nancy Keating, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School conducted a survey of 5,284 patients with lung cancer or colon cancer diagnosis. Patients were questioned about the role played by their family in their care decisions. Results showed that only 1.5% of patients mentioned their families controlled care decisions. A total of 49.4% of patients said that care decisions were shared between them and the family; 22.1% said there was some family contribution to care decisions, while 28.5% affirmed there was very little to inexistent family contribution of care decisions.
When considering background involvement, the researchers found that Asian non-English speakers and Hispanic Spanish-speaking patients reported similar family-shared decisions patterns when compared to patients from other backgrounds. Married patients, females, and older patients were found to have similar shared family decision-making patterns when compared to other patients, while veteran patients were found to be less likely to share decision-making with their families.
“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,” said Dr. Hobbs in a recent news release. “As we move to more patient-centered models of care, such assessments may help doctors personalize the care they offer their patients.”
Dr. Hobbs also mentioned that treatment for cancer patients is improving and getting more complex, making it complicated for patients and their families to decide the best treatment options. The researcher also notes that understanding the role-played by families in decision-making is vital to optimize patients’ participation in care decisions. “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.”