A new pilot study evaluating an online decision-support tool called the Decision Counseling Program©, which was developed by Thomas Jefferson University researchers, shows that men who used the tool were more likely to choose active surveillance, and were less likely to feel conflicted about that decision than they were before using the tool. The results were published online July 15th in the Journal of #Cancer Education.
“The Decision Counseling Program is used by a trained nurse educator to help patients understand their options, figure out what things would make them favor one option over the other, and clarify the option they prefer ,” says first author Ronald Myers, Ph.D., Professor of Medical Oncology. “The Decision Counseling Program also produces a one-page summary that the patient and his physician can use to make a shared decision that makes the most sense.”
The Decision Counseling Program is a new type of patient decision aid. Historically, decision aids have been comprised of educational handouts, booklets, or videos all intended to deliver information to patients. Although some research suggests just providing information through decision aids can increase rates of active surveillance, a large review of the literature showed mixed results.
The Decision Counseling Program developed by Dr. Myers and colleagues differs from previous decision aids in that a nurse educator uses the program not only to provide information about options, but also to identify and weigh the importance of things that matter to the patient (e.g., worry about treatment side effects, concern about developing aggressive cancer). Moreover, the program clarifies the patient’s preferred option and sets the stage for the patient and physician to make a well-informed choice.
Over 90 percent of prostate cancers are detected at a curable stage, with men more likely to die of other diseases than from this cancer. Although patients with localized, low-risk prostate cancer have treatment options: active surveillance, also called watchful waiting, in which the cancer is monitored periodically to detect any changes, or active treatment with surgery and radiation. This choice is challenging, because medical science cannot reliably identify those men who are at risk for developing aggressive disease and may benefit from active treatment. Nonetheless, most men diagnosed with localized, low-risk prostate cancer choose active treatment.