Clinical Oncology/Epidemiology

Management preferences in stage I non-seminomatous germ cell tumours of the testis: an investigation among patients, controls and oncologists

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Increasingly, treatment choices leading to the same survival outcome can be offered to cancer patients (e.g. mastectomy or conservative surgery in early breast cancer). Two approaches available for post-orchidectomy, stage I patients with non-seminomatous germ cell tumours of the testis (NSGCTT), particularly those at high risk of relapse, include immediate adjuvant chemotherapy (two courses) or surveillance, with chemotherapy (typically four courses) given only on relapse. The aim of this study was to investigate which approach patients prefer. Questionnaires were given to newly diagnosed NSGCTT patients, to patients with previous experience of the two options and to non-cancer controls, including specialist testicular tumour oncologists. Participants were asked to choose between immediate chemotherapy, surveillance or for the doctor to decide, at recurrence risk levels ranging from 10% to 90%. Questionnaires were returned by 207 subjects in nine different groups. The risk thresholds at which subjects' management preference changed, within apparently homogeneous groups, varied greatly, although at least one subject in each group selected adjuvant chemotherapy at the lowest (10%) level of risk. Subjects tended to favour options of which they had previous experience. Cancer patients wanted the doctor to decide more frequently than controls. The wide variability observed makes it difficult to predict which option an individual will select. Personality factors and personal circumstances, other than specific experience and knowledge, are obviously influential. Many patients would prefer their doctor to decide, but variability among oncologists is as great as that among their patients.

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