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National Cancer Institute

Basic and Applied Decision Making

Advances in cancer prevention, screening, treatment and end-of-life care, coupled with advances in bioinformatics, have created a wide array of health care options and sources of medical information. Whereas previously the physician was generally accepted as the locus of medical decision making, today this is no longer the case. More and more, shared decision making, in which patients and their physicians deliberate about options using the best available evidence, is replacing the traditional paternalistic model in medicine.

As health care decisions become more of a collaborative effort between patient and provider, patients are increasingly expected to assume greater responsibility for their health decisions.

The objective of this research initiative is to enhance understanding of decision-making processes so that individuals can make more informed and effective choices regarding their health, health care and quality of life.

Specific aims: To encourage:

  • Research that examines the cognitive and affective processes underlying decision making;
  • Research on basic decision-making processes involved in the initiation and long-term maintenance of healthy lifestyle behaviors that may reduce one's risk of cancer and other chronic diseases;
  • Research that examines the construction and stability of preferences for treatment and treatment outcomes
  • Research that explores how the dynamics of real-world settings influence judgment and decision-making processes
  • Basic and applied research that examines health-related numeracy - how people use, process and attach meaning to health-related numeric information
  • Research that examines the consequences of shared decision making


Wendy Nelson, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director
Decision–making and cancer control

News and Highlights

Research on Clinical Decision Making in Life-Threatening Illness
PA-09-121 (R21)
May 8, 2012