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Cancer Experience Survey Reveals Gap in Educating Patients on Latest Diagnostic and Treatment Advancements

More than two-thirds of cancer patients and their caregivers have limited knowledge about the latest advancements in diagnostic and treatment options to help inform their treatment decisions, according to the results of the 2017 Cancer Experience Survey, released today by Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA).

While cancer patients and caregivers are generally satisfied with the quality of care they receive (four out of five surveyed said so), the majority said more information about the latest diagnostic tools and treatment options would be welcomed from their oncologists.

“Part of our role as a patient’s clinical care team is to learn about their goals and educate them on the latest technological and treatment breakthroughs that may help them fight their disease,” said Maurie Markman, MD, President of Medicine & Science at CTCA®. “As revolutionary advancements continue to be made in cancer treatment, we, as physicians, need to increase our level of engagement with patients to ensure they fully understand the best options for their care.”

“Patients and caregivers frequently don’t know what questions to ask, especially after an initial diagnosis, and they typically default to the Internet to obtain additional information,” continued Markman. “Much of this is difficult for them to interpret, however, so an increasingly important part of our responsibility is to help them understand what they have seen or read and its possible relevance to their treatment options.”

The nationally-representative survey polled 1,000 cancer patients and 1,000 caregivers treated at hospitals throughout the U.S., including at least 250 patients diagnosed at each stage of cancer (I-IV) within five years of their participation in the survey. This is the fourth year the survey has been conducted. Key findings from this year’s survey include:

Communication gaps persist around advancements in cancer diagnostics and care and both patients’ and caregivers’ knowledge of these developments

  • Among those surveyed, just one-third (28 percent of patients and 37 percent of caregivers) claimed an understanding of the benefits of new genomic testing diagnostic tools that identify the specific molecular drivers of an individual’s cancer, and two-thirds (58 percent of patients and 75 percent of caregivers) agreed that more knowledge of these would help inform their treatment decisions.
  • More than three out of four (74 percent of patients and 84 percent of caregivers) stated they’re interested in learning more about one of the most promising advancements in cancer care: immunotherapy, or the ability to “train” the body’s immune system to fight certain types of cancer.
  • Conversations between patients and oncologists about these topics are not occurring frequently enough. Only 32 percent of patients and 51 percent of caregivers said their oncologist had discussed immunotherapy with them, while only 25 percent of patients and 36 percent of caregivers said their oncologist has discussed the merits of advanced genomic testing

Half of all patients seek a second opinion, but only one out of six switches oncologists once they have commenced treatment

  • Patients seek a second opinion primarily to confirm their initial diagnosis, followed closely by interest in exploring other treatment options.
  • Younger patients, those 25-44 years of age, are significantly more likely to obtain a second opinion than those aged 55 and older, presumably because of their desire to explore the most promising treatment options as they contemplate the longer-term implications of their diagnosis.
  • Patients cited two primary reasons for switching oncologists after they commenced care: changes in their insurance coverage (23 percent), as well as a lack of confidence in their current treatment plan (21 percent).

Usage of mobile devices to guide treatment is of growing interest to patients and caregivers, but few have had direct experience with these devices for this purpose outside of research for medical information about cancer

  • One out of five patients is interested in tracking their vital signs with a mobile device, yet only eight percent of patients have actually used a mobile monitoring device.
  • Expressing greater concern for “continuous care,” nearly four out of 10 caregivers cited interest in using a vital signs mobile tracking device to help take care of their loved one.

About The Cancer Experience: A National Study of Patients and Caregivers

The Cancer Experience Survey is a national online survey of 1,000 cancer patients and 1,000 caregivers, including at least 250 patients diagnosed at each stage of cancer (I-IV) no more than five years prior to their participation in the survey. This is the fourth annual edition of the survey and was conducted from August 25 – September 23, 2016. It is intended to measure the comprehensive experience of cancer patients and caregivers, providing a barometer for the quality of the cancer care experience in the U.S. The survey measures gaps between patients’ expectations about their care and the reality of the care they received.