What Do Patients Prefer? Understanding Patient Perspectives on Receiving a New Breast Cancer Diagnosis


Background and Objective

There is variability in physician practice regarding delivery method and timeliness of test results to cancer patients. Our aim was to survey patients to determine if there was a difference between actual and preferred care for disclosure of test results.


A de-identified survey was distributed to online cancer support groups to query patients about their experience regarding communication of cancer testing and timeliness. Analyses of the differences between actual and preferred communication and wait times were performed.


Overall, 1000 patients completed the survey. The analysis herein was restricted to 784 breast cancer survivors. Survey responders were predominately White (non-Hispanic; 89 %), college educated (78 %), and media ‘savvy’ (online medical media usage; 97 %). Differences between actual and preferred care were identified for the domains of mode of communication and wait times for initial breast cancer diagnostic biopsies and other tests. A total of 309 (39 %) of 784 patients received face-to-face communication for a new cancer diagnosis, with 394 (50 %) patients preferring this option (p < 0.0001). In addition, 315 (40 %) of 784 patients received their cancer biopsy result within 2 days, with 646 (82 %) patients preferring this option (p < 0.0001). Differences were also identified between actual and preferred care for multiple other test types.


Actual care for timeliness and modes of communication did not reflect patient-desired care. National and local initiatives to improve performance are needed. As a first step, we recommend that each patient be queried about their preference for mode of communication and timeliness, and efforts made to comply.

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The authors would like to acknowledge the Norma J. Vinger Center for Breast Care, the Gundersen Medical Foundation, and Ms. Choua Vang for financial support, statistical support, and manuscript assistance, respectively. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and Living Beyond Breast Cancer for assistance with distributing the survey using their social media channels.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Deanna J. Attai MD FACS.

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Attai, D.J., Hampton, R., Staley, A.C. et al. What Do Patients Prefer? Understanding Patient Perspectives on Receiving a New Breast Cancer Diagnosis. Ann Surg Oncol 23, 3182–3189 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1245/s10434-016-5312-2

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  • Wait Time
  • Actual Care
  • Prefer Care
  • Short Wait Time
  • Poor Predictive Power