Characterizing patient-oncologist communication in genomic tumor testing: The 21-gene recurrence score as an exemplar.
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OBJECTIVE: Women with early-stage, ER + breast cancer are recommend to receive genomic profiling tests, such as the 21-gene Recurrence Score (RS) test, to guide treatment decisions. We examined test- and treatment-related information discussed and the associations between RS categories and aspects of communication during patient-oncologist clinical encounters. METHODS: As part of a larger trial, clinical encounters (N = 46) were audiorecorded and coded for 1) RS- and treatment-related information, 2) shared decision making, 3) patient active participation, and 4) oncologist patient-centered communication. We examined differences by RS category using mixed models, adjusting for nesting within oncologist. RESULTS: Patients with a high RS were more likely to receive a chemotherapy recommendation (p < .01), hear about the risks/side effects of chemotherapy (p < .01), and offer their preferences (p = .02) than those with intermediate or low RS. Elements of shared decision making increased with RS. Oncologist patient-centered communication (M = 4.09/5, SD = .25) and patient active participation (M = 3.5/4, SD = 1.0) were high across RS. CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that disease severity, rather than clinical uncertainty, impact treatment recommendations and shared decision making. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Oncologists adjust test- and treatment-related information and shared decision making by disease severity. This information provides a framework to inform decision making in complex cancer and genomics settings.