Original Articles

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 15, Issue 10, pp 694-701

First online:

Treatment decisions for localized prostate cancer

Asking men what’s important
  • Eric S. HolmboeAffiliated withthe Division of General Medicine, National Naval Medical Center Email author 
  • , John ConcatoAffiliated withClinical Epidemiology Unit, West Haven Veterans Affairs Medical CenterDepartment of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, Yale University School of Medicine

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OBJECTIVE: To identify what factors men consider important when choosing treatment for prostate cancer, and to assess why men reject watchful waiting as a treatment option.

PARTICIPANTS: One hundred two consecutive men with newly diagnosed localized prostate cancer identified from hospital and community-based urology practice groups.

MEASUREMENTS: Patients were asked open-ended questions about likes and dislikes of all treatments considered, how they chose their treatment, and reasons for rejecting watchful waiting. The interviews were conducted in person, after the men had made a treatment decision but before they received the treatment.

MAIN RESULTS: The most common reasons for liking a treatment were removal of tumor for radical prostatectomy (RP) (n=15), evidence for external beam radiation (EBRT) (n=6), and short duration of therapy for brachytherapy (seeds) (n=25). The most frequently cited dislikes were high risk of incontinence for RP (n=46), long duration of therapy for EBRT (n=29), and lack of evidence for seeds (n=16). Only 12 men chose watchful waiting. Fear of future consequences, cited by 64% (n=90) of men, was the most common reason to reject watchful waiting.

CONCLUSION: In discussing treatment options for localized prostate cancer, clinicians, including primary care providers, should recognize that patients’ decisions are often based on specific beliefs regarding each therapy’s intrinsic characteristics, supporting evidence, or pattern of complications. Even if patients do not recall a physician recommendation against watchful waiting, this option may not be chosen because of fear of future consequences.

Key words

localized prostate cancer treatment decision making