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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown: How Men with Prostate Cancer Choose Specialists

The majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer rely heavily on their care providers when choosing a diagnosing urologist and treating specialist, according to a new study published in Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine by researchers at Brown, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Prostate cancer is one of the leading types of cancer diagnosed among men in the United States. Choosing a course of treatment is challenging for many patients because the optimal treatment strategy is often unclear, and involves weighting trade-offs between benefits and uncertain risks related to quality of life. Diagnosing urologists and treatment specialists can play an important role in selecting treatment, although the process by which men choose their specialists remains unclear.

To answer this important question, the researchers interviewed 47 men diagnosed with prostate cancer about their experiences selecting specialists. Three profiles of patients emerged for choosing specialists: Active (21.3%), partially active (53.2%), and passive (25.5%). Active patients conducted substantial research when choosing a diagnosing urologist and a treating specialist; they searched online, consulted other men with prostate cancer, and/or visited multiple specialists for opinions. Partially active patients took only one additional step to find a treating specialist on their own after receiving a referral from their diagnosing urologist. Passive patients relied exclusively on referrals from their primary care physicians and diagnosing urologists.

The results of this paper, first authored by Tammy Jiang, current Masters student at the Brown University School of Public Health, highlight the important role the primary care physician plays when making referrals for prostate cancer. The researchers suggest that primary care physicians should consider counselling patients about seeking second opinions from providers with different treatment perspectives and participating in treatment decisions.