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

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. Plain Language Summary: A clinical pathway is a tool used by doctors and nurses to help them plan how they will take care of patients. Clinical pathways do not always include what is important to patients and their families. We spoke with patients with breast cancer and their family members. We wanted to learn what is important to them when they are making decisions about how the patient will be treated for cancer. They reported thinking about the kind of cancer the patient had and about pros and cons of different treatment choices. They also thought about how much is known about different treatment choices. Other patients' stories were important. Patients and family members wanted to know how a treatment would affect their bodies, feelings, normal roles in life, and families. They also thought about their relationship with their doctors and nurses and about how they would pay for their care. It was seen as hard to balance these things when making decisions. Patients and family members wanted to make decisions they would be happy with later. We will use this information to create a new clinical pathway. This tool will help patients with breast cancer, family members, doctors, and nurses work together to make the best decisions about the patient's cancer.

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Springer Nature
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