Background: The purpose of this study was to assess national practices of surgeons who treat breast cancer in order to identify opportunities to improve patient education. Methods: In June 2012, the membership of the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBrS) (n = 2,818) was surveyed via email questionnaire to evaluate their current practice of shared decision making and informed consent for breast cancer patients. Results: A total of 737 members (26 %) responded, including 384 breast surgeons and 306 general surgeons, 13 midlevel providers, and 25 other specialists. It was found that 90 % of surgeons spent more than 30 min meeting with a new cancer patient, and of these, 30 % spent more than an hour. Surgeons who spent more than 1 h face-to-face with a new cancer patient reported higher levels of overall patient knowledge compared with those who spent less (mean = 3.80 vs. 3.64 of 5; p = 0.001). Also, 89 % of respondents reported using educational tools, of whom more than 90 % used written tools. In addition, 65 % of members stated an interest in a free online educational tool if available and indicated a preference for a flexible tool that could be used by the patient alone or with a nurse. Conclusions: While practice patterns may vary, our results reveal that one-third of surgeons spend at least 1 h in consultation with a new breast cancer patient. More time spent translated to a higher perceived patient understanding of their disease and treatment options. Although the majority of surgeons currently use written materials, there was clear support for a free online educational tool.
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