Patient-physician communication about early stage prostate cancer: Analysis of overall visit structure

Academic Article


  • Background: We know little about patient-physician communication during visits to discuss diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. Objective: To examine the overall visit structure and how patients and physicians transition between communication activities during visits in which patients received new prostate cancer diagnoses. Participants: Forty veterans and 18 urologists at one VA medical centre. Methods: We coded 40 transcripts to identify major communication activities during visits and used empiric discourse analysis to analyse transitions between activities. Results: We identified five communication activities that occurred in the following typical sequence: 'diagnosis delivery', 'risk classification', 'options talk', 'decision talk' and 'next steps'. The first two activities were typically brief and involved minimal patient participation. Options talk was typically the longest activity; physicians explicitly announced the beginning of options talk and framed it as their professional responsibility. Some patients were unsure of the purpose of visit and/or who should make treatment decisions. Conclusion: Visits to deliver the diagnosis of early stage prostate cancer follow a regular sequence of communication activities. Physicians focus on discussing treatment options and devote comparatively little time and attention to discussing the new cancer diagnosis. Towards the goal of promoting patient-centred communication, physicians should consider eliciting patient reactions after diagnosis delivery and explaining the decision-making process before describing treatment options.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Henry SG; Czarnecki D; Kahn VC; Chou WYS; Fagerlin A; Ubel PA; Rovner DR; Alexander SC; Knight SJ; Holmes-Rovner M
  • Start Page

  • 1757
  • End Page

  • 1768
  • Volume

  • 18
  • Issue

  • 5