Women’s perceptions about treatment decision making for ovarian cancer
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OBJECTIVES: To identify in women with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer who had just undergone surgery the extent to which they (1) perceived that they had treatment options, (2) understood the treatment related risks and benefits, and (3) preferred to participate in the treatment decision-making process. METHODS: This qualitative study included women who underwent initial surgery for stage 3 or 4 ovarian cancer and who had received less than two cycles of chemotherapy. In depth semistructured interviews were conducted with 21 patients between June 1999 and February 2001. The interviews were content analyzed according to the themes that arose in the interview. RESULTS: Five themes were identified. (1) Knowledge of treatment benefits and risks. Women understood that the treatment had both survival and quality of life benefits. Women could clearly articulate the risks of chemotherapy. (2) Readiness to make a decision. When making treatment decisions, women described being overwhelmed by the effects of concurrent drugs like analgesics, the severity of the illness, unexpected diagnosis of cancer and grief, and feeling pressured into a decision. (3) Perception of a treatment choice. Most women felt that they made their treatment decision; however, most women did not perceive that they had a treatment choice. Thus, treatment decision making is really a process of coming to terms with the disease and the recommended treatment. (4) Physician-patient relationship. All women suggest that their doctor knew the right treatment for them and they felt confident in their cancer physician. (5) Social supports. Women described supports through decision-making processes that included individuals who advocated for them, faith, and past experience with the cancer system. Hindrances to decision making included people who were negative, the cancer label, and employers. CONCLUSIONS: Women with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer did not describe the treatment decision-making process as shared; rather they described an interaction that was directed largely by the physician. These women attribute this form of decision-making to their advanced age, severity of illness, immediate ramification of treatment choices, and lack of advocacy for a different model of interaction. Thus, the onus is on the physician to ensure that there is an environment for shared decision-making in the event that the patient is interested in such an interaction.
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