Brief Report

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 252-255

First online:

Perceived Helpfulness of Physicians’ Communication Behavior and Breast Cancer Patients’ Level of Trust Over Time

  • Neeraj K. AroraAffiliated withDivision of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute Email author 
  • , David H. GustafsonAffiliated withCenter for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, University of Wisconsin

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We evaluated the association between physicians’ communication behavior and breast cancer patients’ trust in their physicians.


Longitudinal survey conducted at baseline, 2-month, and 5-month follow-up during first year of diagnosis.


Newly diagnosed breast cancer patients (N = 246).


We collected data on patient perceptions of the helpfulness of informational, emotional, and decision-making support provided by physicians and patients’ trust. Linear regression models evaluated the association of concurrent and prior levels of physician support with patients’ trust.


At baseline, patients who received helpful informational, emotional, and decision-making support from physicians reported greater trust (p < 0.05, p < 0.001, and p < 0.01, respectively). At the 2-month assessment, baseline informational support and informational and emotional support at 2-months were associated with greater trust (p < 0.05, p < 0.01, and p < 0.05, respectively). At the 5-month assessment, only helpful emotional support from physicians at 5 months was associated with greater trust (p < 0.01). Interestingly, while perceived helpfulness of all three types of physician support decreased significantly over time, patient trust remained high and unchanged.


Findings suggest that while informational and decision-making support may be more important to patient trust early in the course of treatment, emotional support from physicians may be important to maintain trust throughout the initial year of diagnosis.


breast cancer trust patient-physician communication longitudinal analysis