The Impact of Numeracy on Verbatim Knowledge of the Longitudinal Risk for Prostate Cancer Recurrence following Radiation Therapy.

Medical Decision Making

PubMedID: 25277673

Hamstra DA, Johnson SB, Daignault S, Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Taylor JM, Larkin K, Wood A, Fagerlin A. The Impact of Numeracy on Verbatim Knowledge of the Longitudinal Risk for Prostate Cancer Recurrence following Radiation Therapy. Med Decis Making. 2015;35(1):27-36.
OBJECTIVE
. Given the long natural history of prostate cancer, we assessed differing graphical formats for imparting knowledge about the longitudinal risks of prostate cancer recurrence with or without 'hormone' or 'androgen deprivation' therapy.

METHODS
. Male volunteers without a history of prostate cancer were randomized to 1 of 8 risk communication instruments that depicted the likelihood of prostate cancer returning or spreading over 1, 2, and 3 years. The tools differed in format (line, pie, bar, or pictograph) and whether the graph also included no numbers, 1 number (indicating the number of affected individuals), or 2 numbers (indicting both the number affected and the number unaffected). The main outcome variables evaluated were graphical preference and knowledge.

RESULTS
. A total of 420 men were recruited; respondents were least familiar and experienced with pictographs (P < 0.0001), and only 10% preferred this particular format. Overall accuracy ranged from 79% to 92%, and when assessed across all graphical subtypes, the addition of numerical information did not improve verbatim knowledge (P = 0.1). Self-reported numeracy was a strong predictor of accuracy of responses (odds ratio [OR] = 2.6, P = 0.008), and the impact of high numeracy varied across graphical type, having a greater impact on line (OR = 5.1; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.6-16; P = 0.04) and pie charts (OR = 7.1; 95% CI = 2.6-19; P =0.01), without an impact on pictographs (OR = 0.4; 95% CI = 0.1-1.7; P = 0.17) or bar charts (OR = 0.5; 95% CI = 0.1-1.8; P = 0.24).

CONCLUSION
. For longitudinal presentation of risk, baseline numeracy was strongly prognostic for outcome. However, the addition of numbers to risk graphs improved only the delivery of verbatim knowledge for subjects with lower numeracy. Although subjects reported the least familiarity with pictographs, they were one of the most effective means of transferring information regardless of numeracy.