Oncologists can help young cancer patients avoid regretting their treatment decision

Choosing a cancer treatment plan is not easy, and nearly a quarter of young adults diagnosed with the disease felt some regret about their initial treatment decision, according to a study reported on by Reuters.

The study, published in Pediatrics, surveyed 203 cancer patients, ages 15-29, within six weeks of receiving a diagnosis to gauge their decision-making preferences and experiences. Four months and one year after their decision, the researchers asked the participants if their feelings regarding what treatment they chose had changed.

When first asked, 58% of patients wanted to share the responsibility of deciding the best treatment strategy, 51% said they wanted limited involvement from their parents. Again, at the initial interview, 24% said they regretted their treatment decision. At four months that dropped to 23%, and at one year, 19% expressed regret.

“While these negative psychological outcomes are worrisome, we also found some potential good news, which is that patients who trusted their oncologists and felt their oncologists understood their personal values appeared to be relatively protected from regret,” lead author Jennifer Mack, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said to Reuters over email.  

“This suggests that oncologists who care for these patients can have an important role in helping patients to make good decisions for themselves and to feel comfortable that they made the best possible decisions,” Mack added.

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