Table 2

Characteristics of included studies

StudyYearCountryDisease focusStudy designStudy sample and settingStudy aimsTerms manipulatedPrimary outcomes measuredOther outcomes measured
Copp et al 2017AustraliaPCOSRandomised experimental design (2×2x(2) factorial design)181 female university studentsTo test the impact of the PCOS disease label on intention to undergo an ultrasound and psychosocial outcomes‘Polycystic ovary syndrome’ versus ‘hormonal imbalance’Intention to have an ultrasound
(10 point scale: 
1 = definitely will not to 10 = definitely will)
Negative affect, self-esteem, perceived severity of condition, credibility of GP and interest in a second opinion
McCaffery  et al 2015AustraliaDCISRandomised experimental design (cross-over design)269 healthy women from a community sampleTo examine whether the use of terminology including the term cancer to describe DCIS increased hypothetical level of concern and treatment preferences‘Abnormal cells’ versus ‘pre-invasive breast cancer cells’Treatment preferences: treatment versus watchful waiting, measured on a five-point Likert scale (definitely prefer treatment, probably prefer treatment, prefer to do nothing, probably prefer watchful waiting, definitely prefer watchful waiting)Level of concern measured on a five-point Likert scale (Extremely concerned–Not concerned at all)
Nickel et al*2015AustraliaDCISSemistructured qualitative interviews26 women from a community sampleTo understand how different proposed terminologies for DCIS affect women's perceived concern and management preferences‘Abnormal cells’ versus ‘pre-invasive breast cancer cells’
‘ductal carcinoma in situ’
‘ductal intraepithelial neoplasia’
‘indolent lesions of epithelial origin’
Women’s qualitative responses to terminologies with and without the cancer term on level of concern and management preferences
Omer et al 2013USADCISRandomised experimental design (cross-over design)394 healthy women with no history of breast cancer from a hospital patient registryTo examine how women respond to terminology for DCIS without the cancer term‘Non-invasive breast cancer’, ‘breast lesion’, ‘abnormal cells’Treatment preferences (choice between surgery, medication, active surveillance)
Scherer et al 2013USAGERDRandomised experimental design (2×2 factorial design)175 parents aged 18 years or older presenting at a primary care paediatric clinicTo determine if the disease label GERD influences parents’ perceived need to medicate an infant‘GERD’ versus no label ‘this problem’Parents’ interest in giving their infant medication (three measures using six-point Likert scale: No, definitely not–Yes, definitely)Perception of illness severity (three measures using five-point Likert scale: worry = Not at all worried–Very worried, serious = Not at all serious–Very serious, sick = Strongly disagree–Agree)
Appreciation of medication offered (one measure using five-point Likert scale: No, definitely not–Yes, definitely)
Scherer et al 2015USAConjunctivitisRandomised experimental design (2×2 factorial design)159 parents aged 18 years or older presenting at a primary care paediatric clinicTo determine whether the ‘pink eye’ term would influence parents’ beliefs about the condition and their interest in using antibiotics‘Pink eye’ versus ‘eye infection’Parents’ decision to give their child antibiotics measured on a six-point Likert scale (No, definitely not–Yes, definitely)Targeted beliefs about contagiousness measured on a five-point Likert scale (Not at all contagious–Very contagious)
Parents ability to send their child to day care measured on a five-point Likert scale (Not at all likely–Very likely)
Azam et al 2010UKBony fractureCross-sectional survey100 adult patients presenting at an emergency departmentTo assess the way different terms used to describe a fracture affect the understanding a patients has of it including the perceived severity of the injury and how the patient expects to be treated‘A crack in the bone’
‘A broken bone’
‘A fracture’
‘A hairline fracture’
‘A greenstick fracture’
Expected treatment (choice between heals on own, sling, cast, operation)Perceived severity on a 10-point scale (one being minimally problematic to 10 being a very serious injury)
  • *Included qualitative study.

  • DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ; GERD, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease; GP, general practitioner; PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome.