Risk communication in prostate cancer care

Doctors consulting with patients have expertise in suggesting to patients their own individual risk profile based on the patient’s age, other medical conditions, etc. Most of the time, however, this information is communicated orally during the treatment discussion, a time when patients are not optimally receptive to information.

Our working hypothesis is that providing patients with a synthetic summary, in an easily-understandable graphical format, of the risks and benefits associated with available treatment options should lead to an increase in “clarity of action”. Such support would be given by the doctor during the treatment conversation, explained in detail, and possibly augmented with hand-written notes whenever relevant.

The graphical representation of the risk of side effects and complications for given treatments is computed from doctor input and data published by leading medical journals.

Beyond the patient-doctor discussion, this support contains the essential information for the patient to think quietly about the options available or to discuss those with family members. In this way the patient does not have to rely simply on his or her memory of what the doctor said during the consultation and is empowered to make a more informed decision on the treatment method they wish to proceed with.

Our challenge is not necessarily to invent new representations but to find those which best convey the information with minimum bias.

This web-based tool has been developed in the context of prostate cancer, but can be easily adapted to other diseases.


Related publication

Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Ubel PA, Smith DM, et al. Communicating side effect risks in a tamoxifen prophylaxis decision aid: the debiasing influence of pictographs. Patient Education and Counseling. 2008;73(2):209–214.


Example of results


Application areas

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