Monday, April 7, 2008

Prostate cancer treatment options and decision aids: case

I have gotten several requests for information on the topic of prostate cancer, both from patients and from health professionals, so I thought I would share what I found.

Before I do so, I thought it might be helpful to explain what a decision aid (or guide) is, in case anybody reading this has never seen one or is not sure what one is.

I had a hell of a time finding a definition. I checked MedlinePlus' medical dictionary and encyclopedia, and neither had one. Cambridge Dictionaries Online didn't list the term, and neither did the Merriam-Webster online medical dictionary. This time even Google failed me. (I am searching online since I am at the clinic and so don't have access to print resources, much as the average patient or family member wouldn't.) I am finally able to find one definition though. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services,
Decision aids are mechanisms or interventions that have been developed to improve communication between health professionals and patients, and to help involve patients in making decisions regarding their health care. Decision aids can include brochures, videotapes or interactive computer programs. Recent reviews have suggested that decision aids may be effective in supporting general health care decisions.
But what does that mean in plain English? You could say that any information that helps you make a decision could be considered a decision aid, but there two types of tools that are usually referred to using the term decision aid or decision guide.

One kind works like a sort of "choose your own adventure." At each step in the process you are given your options and depending on which you pick, or which is recommended based on test results, other choices are then offered and so on, branching out like a little tree. This makes it possible to see what might happen if you chose one treatment over another.

The other kind brings up important questions and help you make a list of pros and cons, much the same way you might do if you were making any other decision.


Information on prostate cancer treatment options and decision aids.


Here are a few resources that I found useful:

Treatment options:

National Cancer Institute: What you need to know about prostate cancer.

National Cancer Institute: Prostate cancer treatment

Family Doctor: Prostate cancer treatment options

Canadian Cancer Society: What is prostate cancer?

Decision aids:

Mayo Clinic: Prostate cancer guide

American Cancer Society: Detailed guide- prostate cancer

National Comprehensive Cancer Network treatment guidelines for patients: prostate cancer (for very advanced readers)

These are for screening but might still be of interest:

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: Prostate cancer screening decision guide

Lab Tests Online: Prostate cancer tests

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