Greenup, R. A., Rushing, C. N., Fish, L. J., Lane, W. O., Peppercorn, J. M., Bellavance, E., Tolnitch, L., Hyslop, T., Myers, E. R., Zafar, S. Y., Hwang, E. S.
BACKGROUND: Cancer treatment costs are not routinely addressed in shared decisions for breast cancer surgery. Thus, we sought to characterize cost awareness and communication among surgeons treating breast cancer. METHODS: We conducted a self-administered, confidential electronic survey among members of the American Society of Breast Surgeons from 1 July to 15 September 2018. Questions were based on previously published or validated survey items, and assessed surgeon demographics, cost sensitivity, and communication. Descriptive summaries and cross-tabulations with Chi-square statistics were used, with exact tests where warranted, to assess findings. RESULTS: Of those surveyed (N = 2293), 598 (25%) responded. Surgeons reported that ‘risk of recurrence’ (70%), ‘appearance of the breast’ (50%), and ‘risks of surgery’ (47%) were the most influential on patients’ decisions for breast cancer surgery; 6% cited out-of-pocket costs as significant. Over half (53%) of the surgeons agreed that doctors should consider patient costs when choosing cancer treatment, yet the majority of surgeons (58%) reported ‘infrequently’ (43%) or ‘never’ (15%) considering patient costs in medical recommendations. The overwhelming majority (87%) of surgeons believed that patients should have access to the costs of their treatment before making medical decisions. Surgeons treating a higher percentage of Medicaid or uninsured patients were more likely to consistently consider costs (p < 0.001). Participants reported that insufficient knowledge or resources (61%), a perceived inability to help with costs (24%), and inadequate time (22%) impeded cost discussions. Notably, 20% of participants believed that discussing costs might impact the quality of care patients receive. CONCLUSIONS: Cost transparency remains rare, however in shared decisions for breast cancer surgery, improved cost awareness by surgeons has the potential to reduce financial hardship.