• physician–patient interaction;
  • physician communication;
  • information-giving;
  • older breast cancer patients;
  • health care disparities;
  • treatment delay;
  • breast conserving surgery;
  • breast cancer knowledge;
  • breast cancer treatment

Objectives: To assess the impact of the patient-physician interaction on breast cancer care in older women.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Los Angeles County, California.

Participants: Two hundred twenty-two consecutively identified breast cancer patients aged 55 and older who were within 6 months of breast cancer diagnosis and/or 1 month posttreatment.

Measurements: Dependent variables were patient breast cancer knowledge, treatment delay, and receipt of breast-conserving surgery (BCS). Key independent variables were five dimensions of the patient-physician interaction by patient report, including physician provision of tangible and interactive informational support, physician provision of emotional support, physician participatory decision-making style, and patient perceived self-efficacy in the patient-physician interaction. Age and ethnicity were additional important independent variables.

Results: In multiple logistic regression models, only physician interactive informational support had significant relationships with all three dependent variables, controlling for a wide range of patient sociodemographic and case-mix characteristics, visit length, number of physicians seen, social support, and physician sociodemographic and practice characteristics. Specifically, informational support positively predicted patient breast cancer knowledge (adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=1.18, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.00–1.38), negatively predicted treatment delays (AOR=0.80, 95% CI=0.67–0.94), and positively predicted receipt of BCS (AOR=1.29, 95% CI=1.07–1.56). Age and ethnicity were not significant predictors in these models.

Conclusion: One specific domain of the patient-physician interaction, interactive informational support, may provide an avenue to ensure adequate breast cancer knowledge for patient treatment decision-making, decrease treatment delay, and increase rates of BCS for older breast cancer patients, thereby potentially mitigating known healthcare disparities in this vulnerable population of breast cancer patients.