Comprehension of Randomization and Uncertainty in Cancer Clinical Trials Decision Making Among Rural, Appalachian Patients

Janice L. Krieger, Angela Palmer-Wackerly, Phokeng M. Dailey, Jessica L. Krok-Schoen, Nancy E. Schoenberg, Electra D. Paskett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Comprehension of randomization is a vital, but understudied, component of informed consent to participate in cancer randomized clinical trials (RCTs). This study examines patient comprehension of the randomization process as well as sources of ongoing uncertainty that may inhibit a patient’s ability to provide informed consent to participate in RCTs. Cancer patients living in rural Appalachia who were offered an opportunity to participate in a cancer treatment RCT completed in-depth interviews and a brief survey. No systematic differences in randomization comprehension between patients who consented and those who declined participation in a cancer RCT were detected. Comprehension is conceptually distinct from uncertainty, with patients who had both high and low comprehension experiencing randomization-related uncertainty. Uncertainty about randomization was found to have cognitive and affective dimensions. Not all patients enrolling in RCTs have a sufficient understanding of the randomization process to provide informed consent. Healthcare providers need to be aware of the different types of randomization-related uncertainty. Efforts to improve informed consent to participate in RCTs should focus on having patients teach back their understanding of randomization. This practice could yield valuable information about the patient’s cognitive and affective understanding of randomization as well as opportunities to correct misperceptions. Education about RCTs should reflect patient expectations of individualized care by explaining how all treatments being compared are appropriate to the specifics of a patient’s disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-748
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Cancer clinical trials
  • Decision making
  • Health disparities
  • Oncology research
  • Randomization
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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