Do women prefer a female breast surgeon?

Asnat Groutz*, Hadar Amir, Revital Caspi, Eran Sharon, Yifat Amir Levy, Mordechai Shimonov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Patient preferences regarding the gender of their physicians is a highly sensitive issue, which can be particularly salient in intimate medical situations. Previously published studies found that women tend to prefer female physicians, especially in the case of obstetricians and gynecologists. Data regarding other intimate specialties, such as breast surgery, are scarce. The present study was undertaken to assess gender preferences of women regarding their choice of a breast surgeon. Methods: Five hundred and fifteen consecutive women who attended breast clinics in two university-affiliated tertiary hospitals were prospectively enrolled. A 25-item anonymous questionnaire was completed by women independently and used to assess their preferences in selecting their breast surgeon. Of the 515 women, 500 (97 % response rate; mean age 50.6 ± 15.4 years) completed the anonymous questionnaire. Results: Overall, 160 (32 %) women preferred to undergo breast examination by a female breast surgeon, 296 (59 %) had no preference, and only 44 (9 %) preferred a male surgeon. A same-gender preference was significantly and independently associated with younger age of the patients (Odds Ratio = 0.978, 95 % Confidence Interval 0.962-0.994, P = 0.007) and being married (Odds Ratio = 0.563, 95 % Confidence Interval 0.347-0.916, P = 0.021). However, only small and equal numbers of patients preferred to undergo breast surgery by a female (14 %) or a male (13 %) surgeon, and most patients (73 %) had no gender preferences. Furthermore, the three most important factors, which affected in general the actual selection, were surgical ability (93 %), experience (91.2 %) and knowledge (78.6 %), rather than physician gender per se. Conclusions: Overall, about a third of women prefer a female breast surgeon for their breast examination. Embarrassment during the examination was the major reason for same-gender preference. In contrast, when it comes to breast operations, preference for a female surgeon is less pronounced, with the professional skills of the surgeons becoming the predominant consideration. The fact that almost a third of the potential patients prefer female surgeons with regard to their breast examinations emphasizes the need to increase the number of female surgeons. Such an increase can be achieved through academic and economic changes that will enable more women to specialize in general surgery. Trial registration: Trial registration is not required for this type of research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number35
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016

Keywords

  • Breast surgery
  • Female breast surgeon
  • Gender preference
  • Physician-patient relations
  • Sex preference

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