Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 1055–1061 | Cite as

Provider perspectives on patient-provider communication for adjuvant endocrine therapy symptom management

  • Kea TurnerEmail author
  • Cleo A Samuel
  • Heidi AS Donovan
  • Ellen Beckjord
  • Alexandra Cardy
  • Mary Amanda Dew
  • GJ van Londen
Original Article



Providers’ communication skills play a key role in encouraging breast cancer survivors to report symptoms and adhere to long-term treatments such as adjuvant endocrine therapy (AET). The purpose of this study was to examine provider perspectives on patient-provider communication regarding AET symptom management and to explore whether provider perspectives vary across the multi-disciplinary team of providers involved in survivorship care.


We conducted three one-hour focus groups with a multi-disciplinary group of health care providers including oncology specialists, primary care physicians, and non-physician providers experienced in caring for breast cancer survivors undergoing AET (n = 13). Themes were organized using Epstein and Street’s (2007) Framework for Patient-Centered Communication in Cancer Care.


The findings of this study suggest providers’ communication behaviors including managing survivors’ uncertainty, responding to survivors’ emotions, exchanging information, and enabling self-management influences the quality of patient-provider communication about AET symptoms. Additionally, lack of systematic symptom assessment tools for AET requires providers to use discretion in determining which symptoms to discuss with survivors resulting in approaches that vary based on providers’ discipline.


There may be AET-specific provider communication skills and behaviors that promote effective patient-provider communication but additional research is needed to identify practices and policies that encourage these skills and behaviors among the many providers involved in survivorship care. Efforts are also needed to coordinate AET symptom assessment across providers, clarify providers’ roles in symptom assessment, and determine best practices for AET symptom communication.


Patient-provider communication Breast cancer Adjuvant endocrine therapy Aromatase inhibitors Symptom management Patient-centered communication 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest statement

We wish to confirm that there are no known conflicts of interest associated with this publication and there has been no significant financial support for this work that could have influenced its outcome.

We wish to confirm that we have ownership over the primary data used in this manuscript and give permission to Supportive Care in Cancer to review the data if needed.


American Federation for Aging Research/John A. Hartford Foundation, the Magee-Women’s Research Institute and Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Scholars Program–National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award(CTSA)(05 KL2 RR024154), the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant (P30 CA047904), and the National Cancer Institute Award Diversity Supplement Award (3 R01 CA150980-04S1).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina at Chapel HillGillings School of Global Public HealthChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Cancer Center, School of NursingUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health PlanUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Clinical and Translational ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  6. 6.Department of MedicineUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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