Patient and Family Caregiver Considerations When Selecting Early Breast Cancer Treatment: Implications for Clinical Pathway Development

Dena Schulman-Green, Emily Cherlin, Renee Capasso, Sarah S. Mougalian, Shiyi Wang, Cary P. Gross, Preeti S. Bajaj, Katherine Eakle, Sharmi Patel, Karin Douglas, Kerin Adelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: While clinical pathways have been widely adopted to decrease variation in cancer treatment patterns, they do not always incorporate patient and family caregiver perspectives. We identified shared patient and family caregiver considerations influencing treatment preferences/decision making to inform development of a shared decision pathway. Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews with women who completed initial definitive treatment for stage I–III breast cancer and their family caregivers. As part of a broader interview, we asked participants what they considered when choosing a treatment option for themselves/their loved one. We coded transcribed interviews, analyzed patient and family caregiver datasets separately, and compared findings. Findings Patients’ (n = 22) mean age was 55.7 years, whereas family caregivers’ (n = 20) mean age was 59.5 years, with most (65%) being patients’ spouses/partners. Considerations reported by both groups included cancer status, treatment issues, physical/psychosocial/family consequences, and provider/health care system issues. Data revealed three key tensions that arise during treatment decision making: (1) having enough information to set expectations but not so much as to be overwhelming; (2) balancing the highest likelihood of cure with potential physical/emotional/social/financial consequences of the chosen treatment; and (3) wanting to make data-driven decisions while having a personalized treatment plan. Discussion: Patients and family caregivers identified several considerations of shared relevance reflecting different perspectives. Efforts to balance considerations can produce tensions that may contribute to decision regret if unaddressed. Conclusion: Clinical pathways can increase exposure to decision regret if treatment options are selected without consideration of patients’ priorities. A shared decision pathway that incorporates patient-centeredness could facilitate satisfactory decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-697
Number of pages15
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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