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CancerCare® Paper in American Cancer Society’s Journal, CANCER, Highlights Important Gap in Patient/Doctor Communication

Based on research fielded by CancerCare, the leading national nonprofit organization providing free, professional support services to anyone affected by cancer, Ellen Miller-Sonet co-authored “Importance of Quality-of-Life Priorities and Preferences Surrounding Treatment Decision-Making in Patients with Cancer and Oncology Clinicians,” published in American Cancer Society’s Journal, CANCER.

This study evaluated national data collected by CancerCare to understand the extent to which patients articulate and physicians collect and document patients’ quality of life priorities BEFORE treatment decisions are finalized. Discussion of these issues is essential to patient engagement in informed and shared decision making. Patient surveys included questions about the importance of various elements of quality of life and whether they were discussed with their doctors. Clinician surveys included questions about their discussion of quality-of-life priorities with patients, the impact these priorities have on treatment recommendations and how they are documented in practice.

The study found that although 67% of clinicians reported knowing their patients’ personal quality-of-life priorities and preferences before finalizing treatment plans, only 37% of patients reported these discussions occurred before starting treatment. Most patients (95%) considered out-of-pocket expenses important during treatment planning, yet only 59% reported discussing these expenses with their clinician.

“When cancer clinicians recognize what’s important to their patients, they are best able to recommend treatment options that support patients’ quality-of-life priorities. Informed decision making doesn’t exist if patients don’t know about the impact cancer and its treatment is likely to have on their lives,” said Miller-Sonet.

Dr. Gabrielle Rocque, senior author on the project, stated, “This work highlights the need to develop novel approaches to systematically collect and incorporate patient preferences in clinical practice to achieve shared decision making between patients and clinicians.”

This survey was developed as part of CancerCare’s Patient Values Initiative (PVI), a multi-pronged effort aimed at reframing the national healthcare policy dialogue to ensure that including patients’ priorities in treatment decision making becomes the true standard of care. For more information, visit

About CancerCare®

Founded in 1944, CancerCare is the leading national organization providing free, professional support services and information to help people manage the emotional, practical and financial challenges of cancer. Our comprehensive services include counseling and support groups over the phone, online and in-person, educational workshops, publications and financial and co-payment assistance. All CancerCare services are provided by master’s-prepared oncology social workers and world-leading cancer experts. To learn more, visit or call 800-813-HOPE (4673).

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