Respect patient preferences

Summary by Sophie, patient et C.Bour, MD

March 28, 2022

Patient Preferences for Outcomes Following DCIS Management Strategies: A Discrete Choice Experiment*

Chapman BM, Yang JC, Gonzalez JM, Havrilesky L, Reed SD, Hwang ES.

JCO Oncol Pract. 2021 Nov;17(11):e1639-e1648. doi: 10.1200/OP.20.00614. Epub 2021 Mar 12. PMID: 33710917.

*The Discrete Choice Method (DCM) analyzes consumer choices. Under specific behavioral hypotheses, it makes it possible to explain the trade-offs individuals make between the various attributes of a good or service.


Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is more frequent as it is routinely screened; estimates indicate that 80% of DCIS are of good prognosis and do not threaten women's health. They thus contribute significantly to the overdiagnosis of breast cancer, i.e., needless diagnoses of lesions that, if they had not been found, would not have impacted either the health or the life of women.
But almost all DCIS are treated aggressively by surgery, often combined with radiotherapy and/or hormonal therapy, depending on the management guidelines in each country. In some countries, active surveillance is proposed; in others, like France, DCIS are treated with the same aggressiveness as "true" invasive cancers.

However, there are few studies on patients' preferences for treatment options.

Here the question asked is: What trade-offs are women willing to make between side effects of treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and future risk of invasive cancer?

Main result: A majority of women (71%) were willing to accept a small increase in future risk of invasive cancer for treatment scenarios that offered a reduction in treatment-related side effects.

The results of this study underscore the importance of shared decision making, weighing risks and benefits, between the patient and the caregiver managing a low-risk condition.


The term "overtreatment" has been used to characterize treatment for conditions that look like early cancer but are not destined to cause symptoms during a patient's lifetime or to be a cause of death. It has been estimated that as many as one in four patients with breast cancer detected by screening may be subject to overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
Much of this burden relates to treating ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS or preinvasive breast cancer).
In fact, almost all CCIS are treated aggressively with surgery, radiotherapy, and/or endocrine therapy, especially in France.

The 10-year breast cancer–specific survival among women treated for DCIS is 98%-99%, implying that either current therapy is almost completely effective in eradicating breast cancer mortality or many women with DCIS would not have progressed to invasive breast cancer and thus were overtreated.

The exceptionally high breast cancer–specific survival across alternative treatment options has raised concern that in patients who have an indolent form of DCIS, treatment imposes harm without offering significant benefit.

An alternative to standard guidelines that has been proposed is the active surveillance (AS) approach, as is currently offered for many men with early prostate cancer and for women with other conditions considered high risk for breast cancer, such as atypical ductal hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ, or a hereditary deleterious mutation. An AS strategy would entail close monitoring, with the aim of intervening only upon evidence of disease progression.

At the international level, four active prospective clinical trials are testing the safety and benefits of this approach: the LORD trial, which still includes patients.

(Read here:
-Since February 2019, are also accepted CIS grade II, in addition to grade I
-Since July 2020, the randomized trial has been transformed into a patient preference trial: women have the choice of the trial arm (either surveillance or conventional treatment)
-Estrogen receptor and HER2 testing has been added before patients are enrolled in the trial to rule out high-grade lesions, to make the trials even safer
-There are now 28 sites open in the Netherlands, 6 in Belgium, including a francophone site opened in Brussels :
15 sites will open in other countries, including France, to come!)

As awaiting the results of these trials, it is important to discern whether AS might be an acceptable option to some women if they were offered the opportunity to evaluate the benefits and harms of alternative management options.

In other words, would women accept other options such as AS instead of standard treatments if the benefit/risk balance was well explained to them?
To test this hypothesis, this study elicited patient preferences to quantify how women are willing to accept trade-offs among the possible management options for CCIS, including AS.

Discrete choice experiments, as in this case, are survey-based instruments used to obtain information about preferences for different aspects of goods and services of interest.
In a discrete choice experiment, participants are asked to choose between two or more experimentally designed scenarios that require trade-offs across the features (termed "attributes") of a good or a service; here, the management of DCIS; by analyzing participants' choices across questions, it is possible to estimate the relative importance of features on choices and how this orients the choices that persons then make.
In oncology scenarios, this may include trade-offs among the additional survival afforded by a proposed cancer treatment and the side effects, inconveniences, or costs associated with that treatment.


To better understand patient preferences, using a "discrete choice experiment," Hwang and coauthors recruited 194 healthy women in a screening mammography clinic.

Participants were provided with informational videos about the diagnosis and clinical significance of CCIS.
Then the women were asked to imagine that they had been diagnosed with CCIS and then choose between several management scenarios that included the option of aggressive treatments, less aggressive treatments, which also included the estimated risk of cancer and the side effects of treatments.
Different criteria were defined, such as breast appearance, severity of infection in the first year, chronic pain, hot flashes, and risk of developing or dying from breast cancer within 10 years, to create clinical pictures or "health profiles" for the different scenarios, for a more concrete representation for women depending on the choice they would make.


Not surprisingly, future risk of breast cancer and its attendant risk of mortality were the most important factors when women evaluated hypothetical management options.
However, the study found that over two-thirds of participants were willing to accept some increase in future breast cancer risk to reduce the extent of surgery or the severity and/or duration of treatment-related side effects.

In other words, a majority of women were willing to accept a small increase in a possible future risk of invasive cancer for treatment scenarios that offered reduced treatment side effects.

Conclusion and implication in real life :

This indicates that there is likely a subset of women who, when diagnosed with DCIS, would prioritize a reduction in side effect burden or extent of surgery over future breast cancer risk in certain contexts,  researchers concluded.

Most women were willing to make trade-offs between treatment-related effects and risk of invasive cancer, underscoring the need for shared decision making between patients and providers regarding treatment strategies for carcinoma in situ.

Although many discussions of management options for CCIS focus almost exclusively on future breast cancer risk and risk reduction, the results of this study confirm that women benefit if they are presented with detailed information about risks and treatment outcomes, allowing them to make a fully informed, personalized health decision.

The study confirms that treatment choice decisions for CCIS are highly sensitive to personal preferences, and that no a priori assumptions can be made about the trade-offs patients would be willing to consider when weighing the risks and side effects of treatment.

These complex considerations are fundamental to efforts to de-escalate treatments for low-risk conditions such as CCIS.

Advice for Oncologists, interview with principal author:
By Jeff Minerd, MedPage Editor March 8, 2022

In an interview, the principal author provides advice to oncologists on how to discuss CCIS treatment options with patients in a thorough and balanced manner.
Shelley Hwang, MD, on Helping Patients Make DCIS Management Decisions/Excerpts

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is common in the United States, but there are few studies of patient preferences for treatment options. Authors :
"Estimates indicate that only 30% of DCIS may progress to invasive cancer. Nevertheless, almost all DCIS is aggressively treated with surgery, often combined with radiation and/or endocrine therapy, according to guideline-concordant care."

To better understand patient preferences, using a "discrete choice experiment, "Hwang and co-authors recruited 194 women without breast cancer from a screening mammography clinic. The women were asked to imagine they had been diagnosed with DCIS and then asked to choose among several scenarios that included aggressive and less-aggressive forms of treatment, estimation of cancer risk, and side effects.
Not surprisingly, future risk of breast cancer and mortality were the most important factors when the women evaluated hypothetical management options. However, the study found that more than two-thirds of the participants were willing to accept some increase in future breast cancer risk to reduce the extent of surgery or the severity and/or duration of treatment-related side effects.

This indicates that there is likely a subset of women who, when diagnosed with DCIS, would prioritize a reduction in side effect burden or extent of surgery over future breast cancer risk in certain contexts," the researchers concluded.

In the following interview, Hwang elaborates on the details of the study and how to discuss treatment options with patients.

Do you have any advice for how oncologists can discuss treatment options for DCIS with patients in a thorough and balanced way?

Hwang: One key step is eliciting how much knowledge a patient has about her diagnosis and its implications. I think a surgical oncologist would tend to jump right in and say, it's a cancer, we need to remove it, these are the surgical options. That's always the easiest thing for us to do, but we sometimes neglect to spend time with the patient upfront talking about the diagnosis itself and what the clinical implications are.
And when you're dealing with a disease that has no immediate clinical or life-threatening implications, and specifically for DCIS when we don't even know if it will turn into cancer even if we don't intervene surgically, I think framing the diagnosis first and making sure the patient understands the implications of the diagnosis is important.

Your study used discrete choice experiments, which were first developed for market research. Can you briefly describe how these work?

Hwang: Discrete choice experiments have been used a lot in areas such as health economics to see how people make decisions and weigh pros and cons of all the different aspects of making that decision. So say you're about to buy a house, not only do you have to consider cost but also location, how many bedrooms it has --there are many different components that go into that decision.
It's never just one driver that makes an individual decide which house to buy. There are some very emotional aspects to that too. So a discrete choice experiment tries to come up with a set of attributes that are important for making a certain kind of decision.

In this case it was a diagnosis of DCIS and the decision about how to manage it. We tried to include attributes we thought would be meaningful for patients. So postoperative pain, for instance -- that's something people wonder about and are concerned about. We included different levels of pain in the experiment. Cosmesis and side effects of treatment are also important considerations. We created different scenarios where we mixed and matched these different attributes. We presented them to patients and asked them to choose which scenario most matched their preferences. That gave us an idea of what values patients considered most important when trying to make a decision about DCIS.

I think this is something that's becoming more and more relevant. Cancer screening detects precancers such as DCIS that have no immediate clinical implications. There are no symptoms, there are no mortality implications, there's just this concern, that we're trying to prevent cancers from occurring. And I think the better we are at screening, the more we're going to find ourselves in this position, not only with cancer but also with cardiac disease and metabolic diseases, where we diagnose a condition before the patient has any symptoms.

So I think balancing the pros and cons is a lot more relevant when you're not dealing with immediate life-threatening illnesses, and learning how to talk to patients about these scenarios will be an increasingly important skill.

Your study included women without an actual diagnosis of DCIS. Do you think this limits the generalizability of your results to the general DCIS population?

Hwang:That's a really good point. We didn't feel we could do this study with women who were diagnosed with DCIS, because we didn't know what information they would come in with already. If someone somewhere along the way said to them you have cancer and it needs to come out, that could certainly affect how they viewed their choices.
To do this discrete choice experiment, we needed a group of patients that didn't have a lot of other sources of information about the disease already.

On the other hand, women in the study were coming in and presenting with an abnormality, or they were coming for a breast cancer screening, so they were  already thinking about what would happen if they did have a diagnosis. So we felt like it wasn't a stretch to use this population.

We as surgeons are taught to focus on cancer outcomes and mortality, and we should focus on those things. However, sometimes our training hasn't incorporated how to balance other things that patients care about and helping them apply these values to a treatment decision that's comfortable or preferable to them.

I've found that sometimes surgical oncologists, and oncologists in general, treat the cancer, but what we really need to do is holistically treat the patient along with the cancer. That's the take-home message of this study, underscoring how important it is to treat each person as a unique individual and someone who may not necessarily share the treating provider's belief system.

There is room in medicine to accommodate many differing views of risk and health.

For more information:

Surtraitement du CCIS du cancer du sein de stade 0

Perspective : Les risques de surdiagnostic - Nature

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