Most lung and colorectal cancer patients involve family members in treatment decisions, with substantial variation by race/ethnicity and language, according to a study published in Cancer.

Gabriela S. Hobbs, M.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined the extent and predictors of involvement of a patient’s family in decisions regarding cancer treatment.

Data were collected for 5,284 patients with newly diagnosed lung and colorectal cancer from the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance Consortium.

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The researchers found that 1.5 percent of participants reported family-controlled decisions, with the highest adjusted rates observed among non-English-speaking Asians (12.8 percent).

Among the remaining patients, 49.4 percent reported equally sharing decisions with family, while 22.1 and 28.5 percent reported some and little family input, respectively. Patients who were married, female, older, and insured more frequently reported equally shared decisions with family, in adjusted analyses.

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Family involvement varied by race/ethnicity and language; Chinese-speaking Asian and Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients equally shared decisions with family more often than white patients (59.8 and 54.8, respectively, versus 47.6 percent).

Even after adjustment for marital status and social support, Veterans Affairs patients were least likely to report sharing decisions with family.

“Further studies are needed to determine the impact of family involvement in treatment decisions on outcomes; until then, physicians should consider eliciting patients’ preferences for family involvement,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to consulting firms.


  1. Hobbs, Gabriela S., MD, et al. “The role of families in decisions regarding cancer treatments.” Cancer. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.29064. February 23, 2015.