How primary care physicians could better help prostate cancer patients


A newly published article on the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine offers some helpful guidance to primary care  physicians on the subject of prostate cancer diagnosis and its management.

The article by Jiang et al. (which is freely available on line as a full text article) is based on the results of a series of interviews with 47 prostate cancer patients about how they went about selection of how to be treated and by whom. As far as both the authors and your sitemaster are aware, this is the first published and formal study of this important part of a diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer. It is an article that support group leaders and other prostate cancer educators may want to read with care.

The immediate findings of the study are generally what one might expect. Newly diagnosed patients with prostate cancer can basically be divided into three categories:

  • Active patients, who make significant efforts to “do their homework” and find out about all appropriate treatments and the best available physician(s) to implement the treatments they are interested in pursuing (about 21 percent of the patient interviewed)
  • Partially active patients, who may take just one additional step to find a treating specialist on their own after receiving a referral from the diagnosing urologist (about 53 percent of the patients interviewed)
  • Passive patients, who tend to be entirely reliant on the referrals provided by their primary care physicians  and diagnosing urologists (about 26 percent of the patients interviewed)

What Jiang et al. point out as a consequence of these findings is that a potentially critical role of the primary care physician — especially in dealing with partially active and passive patient types — is to carefully inform patients that they may have a number of differing choices if a diagnosing urologist finds that they have prostate cancer, and that how they are treated and by whom may have significant consequences over time.

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink has long believed that primary care physicians can have a critical role in assisting their patients to seek and to find high quality care for initial treatment of prostate cancer. This paper by Jiang et al. appears to provide initial, formal evidence supportive of that perspective.

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