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Women Need More Breast Cancer Info

Many Women Aren’t Aware of Advances in Breast Cancer Treatment
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 13, 2007 -- Women may know more than ever about breast cancer, but there is still room for improvement.

A new survey shows women believe they are more informed and educated than ever about breast cancer, and about a third know a fair amount about the disease.

But when it comes to knowing about recent advances in breast cancer treatment, researchers found there are some gaps in their knowledge.

For example, 67% of women were aware of treatment options such as chemotherapy and radiation as treatments for breast cancer, but only about a quarter knew about newer treatments such as hormone therapy and targeted drug therapy for breast cancer.

“These survey results suggest that many women still lack essential disease treatment information, which reinforces the need for women to educate themselves to help get the best treatment,” says Diane Blum, MSW, in a news release. “While great progress has been made in breast cancer awareness through public education and increased media coverage, women with breast cancer would benefit from more information about advances in treatments after surgery.”

Blum is the executive director of CancerCare, which sponsored the survey.

Breast Cancer Knowledge Growing

The survey, supported with funding from Novartis Oncology, was based on telephone interviews with 501 women aged 50-65 from April 23 to May 9.

The results showed 76% of women reported that they know a lot or a fair amount about breast cancer, and 82% believe progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer.

But 63% did not know the benefits of those advances of breast cancer treatments.

To fill in those gaps in knowledge about breast cancer if they were diagnosed with the disease, researchers found 71% of women would research the condition on their own in addition to discussing treatment options with a doctor.

For example, 61% of women aged 50-55 said they would turn to the Internet for more information, while older women were more likely to seek a breast cancer support group.

But researchers say knowing what questions to ask may be an important issue that women need more education about. The results showed that 86% of women were uncertain about the right questions to ask their doctor if they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Researchers recommend the following five questions as a starting point for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

  1. What kind of breast cancer do I have?
  2. What treatments are available?
  3. What are the risks and benefits of that treatment?
  4. What is my risk that it will come back and/or spread to another part of my body?
  5. Where do I go for support when I need it?

“Communication between the patients and their physicians is so important because it empowers them to take an active role in their treatment decisions,” says Gary Frenette, MD, PhD, medical oncologist with Carolinas Medical Center, in the release. “With essential information, patients can work with their physicians to achieve the best possible outcomes in the management of their diagnosis.”

The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4%.

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