Exploring the role of physician communication about adjuvant endocrine therapy among breast cancer patients on active treatment: a qualitative analysis.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, Volume 25, Issue 1, p.75-83 (2017)


PURPOSE: To better understand how physicians communicate with breast cancer patients about adjuvant endocrine therapy (AET), we explored, from the breast cancer patient's perspective, dimensions of the patient-provider communication among women who were on active AET treatment. METHODS: Qualitative methods using semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with breast cancer patients (n = 22) who filled a prescription for AET in the previous 12 months. Interview questions aimed to elicit experiences with AET. We reviewed and coded interview transcripts using qualitative principles of inductive reasoning to identify concepts and themes from interview data. RESULTS: We grouped emergent themes into four major functions of physician-patient communication: (1) information exchange, (2) decision-making to take and continue AET, (3) enabling patient self-management and monitoring potential side effects, and (4) emotional support. Physicians exchanged information with patients in a way that they understood and enhanced patient's health literacy regarding the benefits and knowledge of AET. Physicians empowered patients to make decisions about their care. Patients expressed trust and confidence in their physician which helped them seek care when needed. Patients reported a high degree of self-efficacy to self-manage AET and were continuing treatment despite potential side effects. CONCLUSIONS: The results from our study suggest that women's interactions and communication with their physician may be an important factor that contributes to the continued use of AET. Physicians who can communicate information about AET treatment benefits, purpose, and expectations in a way that patients can understand is a critical aspect of care that needs to be further studied.