Poor Sources Guide Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions

Biased, inconsistent information does men a disservice, researchers say

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MONDAY, March 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Too many men with prostate cancer are basing important treatment decisions on biased information rather than scientific evidence, a new study finds.

The review of studies, published in the May 1 issue of Cancer, examined patients' prostate cancer treatment decisions and concluded that a lack of medical evidence and consistent, comprehensive messages about treatment options is forcing men to turn to a wide number of popular and biased sources instead. This often results in prostate cancer patients receiving treatments that don't reflect their actual preferences, said researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

Cancer eradication or control was the primary treatment objective for prostate cancer patients, the review found, while minimizing side effects played a minor role in patients' treatment decisions. However, in selecting a treatment, patients didn't consistently rely on the scientific evidence of a therapy's effectiveness in either controlling the cancer or prolonging life, the review found.

For example, one study found that as few as one in four patients based their decision on evidence that a treatment actually worked to eradicate disease.

Doctors often presented prostate cancer treatments in ways that were both confusing and dismissive of patient concerns about risks, the study found. This either biased patients' decisions about treatments or made them turn to other sources of information, the review said.

The studies included in this review did not show how or if prostate cancer patients critically analyzed the quality of treatment information they received. The review authors said it's likely that patients "have significant limitations in their ability to identify biased information, as well as their ability to weigh complex information about the outcomes that are important to them."

"The perceptions of treatment efficacy related to cancer control far outweigh available supporting evidence, and most patients appear to select a prostate cancer treatment primarily based on its perceived ability to control the tumor," the authors concluded.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about prostate cancer.

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, March 27, 2006

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