To develop an instrument to help clinicians inform patients about the benefits and risks of breast irradiation following lumpectomy and to help an informed patient decide whether she prefers this treatment.
A Decision Board consisting of written material and visual aids was developed. It provides the patient with detailed information about her choices (breast irradiation or not), outcomes (breast recurrence and survival), probability of those outcomes, and quality of life associated with treatment and outcome. We studied the decision-making process in 82 consecutive node-negative lumpectomy patients who were seen in consultation by a radiation oncologist and oncology nurse. The Decision Board was used in the last 30 patients in the cohort.
Patient comprehension following the consultation without the Decision Board was greater than 65% for all questions addressed, except for poor understanding of the lack of survival benefit associated with breast irradiation (12% of patients answered correctly) and that it could not be repeated (15% of patients answered correctly). Comprehension following the consultation with the Decision Board was similar, but understanding regarding the repetition of radiation (83%) was improved. Only 70% of patients in the no-Decision Board group felt they were offered a choice. This was increased to 97% in the Decision-Board group. Overall, 95% of patients chose breast irradiation, and this did not differ between groups. Patients reported several reasons for choosing breast irradiation, all of equal importance.
The Decision Board facilitated shared decision making in node-negative lumpectomy patients who chose breast irradiation, but it did not affect a patient's choice to select breast irradiation.